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A 51-Year-Old Immigrant Man From Mexico Has Died In ICE Custody After Testing Positive For COVID-19

The death comes more than a month after a Guatemalan man who tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody.

Last updated on July 13, 2020, at 8:19 p.m. ET

Posted on July 13, 2020, at 3:10 p.m. ET

Ted S. Warren / AP

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A 51-year-old Mexican man has died in ICE custody at a Florida hospital after testing positive for COVID.

Onoval Perez-Montufa, 51, had been in ICE custody since June 15 and was detained at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida before he died on Sunday, ICE said in a statement. Perez-Montufa was a patient at Palm Beach County hospital since July 1 after reporting shortness of breath while in ICE detention.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2, ICE said. The cause of death on Sunday was not immediately known.

Perez-Montufa's death comes more than a month after a 34-year-old Guatemalan man who had tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody at a Georgia hospital in May. That man, 34-year-old Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, had been in ICE custody at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin since early March, the agency confirmed in a statement.

There are currently 883 cases of COVID-19 among the 22,579 inmates in ICE custody.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, medical experts and immigrant advocates have warned that the coronavirus would put detainees at risk. They have pointed to the inherent problems within jails — such as a lack of necessary space to accommodate proper social distancing guidelines — that put people in danger. Advocates have used these arguments as a way to push for more releases.

In March, ICE officials began assessing their inmate population to locate “vulnerable” detainees, including those who are over 60 or are pregnant.

Federal judges across the country have ordered the release of 502 ICE detainees since the beginning of the pandemic, citing the preexisting medical conditions of the immigrants released and the potential for life-threatening complications from COVID-19.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.