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Yet Another Person Dies in ICE Custody

Tina Vasquez

Sergio Alonso Lopez is the sixth person to die in ICE custody in 2017, and the second to die this year after being detained at California’s Adelanto Detention Center.

A 55-year-old man died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on April 13, three weeks after another in-custody death at the same facility.

Sergio Alonso Lopez is the sixth person to die in ICE custody in 2017, and the second to die this year after being detained at California’s Adelanto Detention Center.

Little is known about the details surrounding Lopez’s death. Local news has reported that while still in ICE custody, Lopez was transferred to Victor Valley Global Medical Center in Victorville, California, after throwing up blood. He died of internal bleeding.

Lopez had been in ICE custody since February 7. He was arrested in Los Angeles as part of the Trump administration’s nationwide immigration sweeps that resulted in the detainment of nearly 700 people.

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Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a 32-year-old who had been at Adelanto for three months, died last month of injuries sustained in a suicide attempt. He hung himself on March 22 and died six days later at the same hospital to which Lopez was later brought.

In the five years since Adelanto opened, it has gained notoriety as a deadly detention center. The California facility is operated by GEO Group, a private prison company that has become known for abuse and mismanagement. Five people have died at Adelanto since the facility opened.

Since 2003, 170 people have died in ICE custody. Recent reports found many in-custody deaths are preventable and largely due to “egregious violations” of medical care standards and applicable detention standards.

Human Rights Watch last year documented the deaths of 18 people in ICE custody and found that detention center staff were regularly failing people in detention in two major ways: not following up on symptoms that require assistance and not responding quickly to emergencies.

Both of these failures played out in the 2012 death of 34-year-old Manuel Cota-Domingo. Eight hours transpired from the time Cota-Domingo’s cellmate noticed he couldn’t breathe and banged on the walls of Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center to call for help to the time he was transferred to the hospital. He died of heart disease, untreated diabetes, and pneumonia.

The immigrant rights organizations Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, Detention Watch Network, Immigrant Youth Coalition, and the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice are demanding an investigation into the death of Lopez last week.

Advocates, who are increasingly concerned over the Trump administration’s plans to drastically expand the detention system, worry that quickly expanding an already unruly, deadly system will only lead to more in-custody deaths. Congress this month considered President Trump’s request for $3 billion in extra funding to increase the number of people in detention and to dramatically expand his deportation force.

“We are outraged by the disregard for human life and ICE’s ongoing refusal to meet demands for transparency,” Gabriela Benitez, an organizer at Detention Watch Network, said in a statement. “Trump’s plan to expand an already deadly detention system will only further exacerbate the abuse and inhumane conditions that have proven to have fatal consequences.”

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