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US immigration agency must improve detainee care: Homeland Security report

[JURIST] A report [text, PDF] from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) [official website] has found that while US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] is not responsible for the 2006 deaths of two detainees, ICE officials do not always adhere to proper medical protocols. The medical standards chapter of the ICE Detention Operations Manual [text, PDF] requires ICE officials to medically evaluate and care for detainees. However, in the two cases investigated by OIG, detainees with prior medical conditions were found to have been improperly treated. In those two cases, one detainee died of a parasitic brain infection, while the other died of malignant pancreatic cancer, but according to the OIG report, ICE officials' failure to follow detainee treatment protocol did not contribute to the deaths. OIG investigators wrote:

The two detainees died as a result of serious pre-existing medical conditions. Although there have been problems with adherence to medical standards at the two facilities in question, ICE’s overall standards are equivalent to other detention organizations. ICE has been taking steps to enhance its ability to effectively monitor immigration detention facilities.
The report recommended stricter standards and reporting requirements, as well as increased oversight and internal reviews. ICE has maintained that it provides sufficient medical care [ICE statement] for its detainees. AP has more.

US immigration detention practices have been criticized in the past for providing inadequate levels of medical care. In June 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a class action lawsuit [petition, PDF; press release] against federal immigration officials, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of immigration detainees, alleging that inadequate medical and mental health care [JURIST report] at detention facilities has caused "unnecessary suffering [and] avoidable death." Later that year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said DHS policies for detainees with AIDS do not meet international and domestic standards of care [report text; JURIST report], and that the DHS consistently fails to enforce its own minimum standards.

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