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Death in Immigration Custody

Immigration detention is one of the fastest growing forms of incarceration in the United States. Deaths in custody will only increase if we neglect to care for people who are withering away and dying unheard and neglected.

”It was this room, there,” Edwidge Danticat says, pointing. ‘We thought he was coming, so we had fixed it up. I had imagined what we would do that first day. I had run through it in my head: `He’s going to sleep here; then we’re going to go buy some clothes.’ And now the room was just discounting all that.”eth.JPG

The first phone call had come around midnight, but the terrible news could not be confirmed until just before dawn. Danticat’s uncle, the 81-year-old minister who had been her caretaker for much of her childhood, had died in Jackson Memorial Hospital’s jail ward. Not knowing what else to do, Danticat and her husband pulled paintings from the guest-room walls, yanked off the sheets and shoved the bed away. ‘All of what we had hoped for wasn’t going to happen, so the first thing I thought was, `I’m just going to put this room back how it was before.’ ”

Edwidge Danticat testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration on Thursday. Below are excepts.

His name was Joseph Nosius Dantica, and he was 81 years old. He was the patriarch, the head, of our family. He was a father of two and grandfather of 15, an uncle to nearly two dozen of us, a brother, a friend, and even, after having survived throat cancer, which took away his voice, a minister to a small flock in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. . . .

He was able to flee and eventually travel to the United States, where he has been a frequent visitor for more than 30 years.

He had with him a passport and a valid multiple-entry visa, which would have expired in 2008. However, because he requested what he termed ”temporary” asylum, he was immediately arrested and taken to the Krome detention center in Miami, where the medications he was taking for his high blood pressure and inflamed prostate were taken away from him.

On the morning of his credible-fear hearing, my uncle became ill as a result of this. When a medic and nurse arrived at the scene, the medic accused my uncle of faking his illness.

Later that morning, my uncle’s condition worsened and, with manacles on his ankles, he was transported to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. . . .

The records indicate that he was seen for the first time by a physician at 1 p.m. the next day, exactly 24 hours after he’d been brought to the emergency room. At 7 p.m. after more than 20 hours of no food and sugarless IV fluids, my uncle was sweating profusely and complained of weakness. He was pronounced dead at 8:46 p.m.

After my uncle died, the DHS simply gave my family a corpse and a cause of death that he’d never shown any symptoms of before he became ill at Krome and for which he was never screened, tested, diagnosed, or treated while he was at the Krome medical unit or at Jackson Memorial Hospital. We were given no further explanations or clarification concerning his last days.

Read Story: MH


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