Within the past two years, 22 immigrants have died in U.S. custody. While some place blame on President Donald Trump, immigrants of all ages have died in U.S. custody long before he took office.
The highest number of deaths was 32 in 2004, which was also the first full calendar year records were kept. During Barack Obama’s presidency, deaths staggered from 10 in 2008 to five in 2012 and 12 in 2016.
Perhaps the saddest reality is the number of children whose lives are lost due to lack of simple care. Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, 8, died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody within weeks of each other in December. A 20-month-old girl, Mariee Juarez, was another child victim who passed in March while at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family detention center in Texas.
A report released in the summer of 2017 by Human Rights Watch claimed ICE provided “dangerously substandard care in immigration detention.” Some of the main issues at hand included outright negligence, delays and incompetence on behalf of ICE personnel.
Following this report, the Department of Human Services (DHS) inspector general found more evidence of ICE’s inadequate management. In late 2017, the inspector general said “problems that undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their human treatment and the provision of a safe and healthy environment” were discovered at four facilities.
A second audit released by the DHS inspector general revealed ICE failed to properly manage its more than 200 facilities across the nation. The report says some of the facility problems have “remained unaddressed for years.”
Suicide is also an issue at ICE facilities as five men have recently taken their lives while in ICE custody. Three of the men were reported as being mentally ill and had spent a prolonged period of time in either segregation or solitary confinement.
Regardless of political affiliation, it is clear we have ignored the mismanagement of ICE for long enough. People should not die at these rates while in U.S. custody.
The question now at hand is not over the existence of injustice within ICE facilities. Now, the question becomes: what are we to do about it?
Not only is negligence within ICE an issue, but another growing issue is the number of detainees within these facilities. Although mismanagement did not begin under President Trump, the number of immigrant detainees has increased under his presidency, and quite frankly, he is not helping provide an adequate solution.
President Trump recently sent out a tweet addressing the deaths of immigrant detainees, shifting blame onto the Democratic party:
“Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!”
While a wall could potentially prevent individuals from crossing the border illegally, there are several other factors our government needs to consider. Our government officials need to focus on not only adequately regulating entrance into our country, but they also need to make ICE reform a high priority.
All in all, we need reform on all sides of the spectrum. Whether you agree with a border wall or not, we need better border security. Is a wall the best answer? No. I believe there is a better solution and one that will continue to help immigrants seeking asylum and potential citizenship have a safe path.
In our world of advanced technology, we have incredible assets at our fingertips––drones, cameras, fixed towers, sensors––among others.
We need more personnel on the ground and more immigration judges helping to manage the vast amount of immigration cases currently being processed. What we do not need is a physical barrier put up as an intimidation tactic to prevent immigrants from entering our country.
The U.S. is not an “us and them” nation. This type of mentality goes against the very principles our country was founded on. While regulation is crucial, there are better solutions and better options, and we need to put them into action. Immigrants––legal or illegal––are people, and it is long overdue that we treat them as such.