A 45-year-old Colombian man seeking asylum in the US died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a hospital in Texas on Monday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The man, whose cause of death was not immediately known, was taken into US custody by Border Patrol agents on March 2, when he crossed the border in Texas. In recent weeks, Border Patrol officials have reported an uptick in the number of encounters with immigrants seeking access into the US, especially unaccompanied children who face overcrowding issues in border stations.
The Colombian man told officials he feared being returned to his home country and was transferred on March 3 to ICE custody, where he was scheduled to have a credible fear screening — a first step in the asylum process — but was hospitalized a few days later and died in ICE custody at a hospital on Monday, according to the source.
ICE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The man appears to be the fourth person to have died in ICE custody this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. In the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 21 immigrants died in ICE custody, the highest number since 2005.
In September, the House Oversight Committee found that ICE detainees died after receiving inadequate medical care and that jail workers “falsified records to cover up” issues. That same month, the House Homeland Security Committee released a report that found people detained by ICE are often given deficient medical care, and that detention centers use segregation as a threat against immigrants.
The report was based on tours of eight ICE detention centers, interviews, and facility inspections. The committee also found that ICE and its contractors frequently demonstrated an indifference to the mental and physical care of detainees.
ICE has publicly insisted that the detention facilities it runs, as well as those that are operated by private, for-profit corporations, provide thorough and adequate medical care to all detainees.
Agency officials have repeatedly said that ICE takes the health and safety of detainees very seriously and while deaths are “unfortunate and always a cause for concern,” they are “exceedingly rare.”