SPLC demands records from DHS after detained immigrant dies

The SPLC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency after the death this week of Yulio Castro-Garrido, a 33-year-old Cuban immigrant who was detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.

“Castro-Garrido’s death is tragic, but unfortunately not shocking,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director at the SPLC. “DHS has a long and shameful track record of failing to protect the basic rights and safety of people in its custody. It provides inadequate medical care, as well as unsanitary and unsafe living conditions. Immigrants often wait days or weeks for basic medical attention, if they get it at all. Castro-Garrido’s death may well have been preventable, and we are seeking answers for the sake of every immigrant.”

Castro-Garrido’s death marks the second in less than a year at Stewart. He died three weeks after being diagnosed with pneumonia, according to media reports. Last May, Jean Jimenez-Joseph, a 27-year-old Panamanian man, committed suicide by hanging himself after he was placed in solitary confinement, according to ICE reports.

Last month, DHS’ Office of Inspector General expressed concern about “long waits for the provision of health care” at Stewart in an extensive report identifying problems that “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”

Weeks before Castro-Garrido’s death, a detainee at Stewart reported to lawyers with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) – which provides pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants in the southeastern United States – that when asked for medical treatment, nurses said the facility lacked the resources to provide doctor’s visits or antibiotics for all the people detained at the facility.

“DHS must stop detaining immigrants in remote facilities where it cannot ensure that basic health care services are met,” Graybill said. “People have died because DHS too frequently fails to act. We hope that shedding light on DHS’ actions in urgent medical situations will force the agency to improve medical treatment at detention facilities.”

The lack of medical treatment for another SPLC client detained at Stewart was detailed in several media reports.

In 2016, the SPLC released a report demonstrating that the immigrant detention system, particularly in the South, is rife with civil rights violations and poor conditions, highlighting DHS’ failure to protect the due process rights and ensure the safety of detainees.