A 40-year-old French man died in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a New Mexico hospital on Sunday — the fourth person to do so since October, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The man had been in ICE custody since Nov. 12.
The man, identified as Samuelino Pitchout Mavinga, was jailed at the Otero County Processing Center until Dec. 11, when he was taken to the Torrance County Detention Facility. The next day, he was sent to the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque for "evaluation of emaciation, altered mental status, and possible sepsis." Mavinga was diagnosed with sigmoid volvulus, or the twisting of the large intestines causing a bowel obstruction, ICE said. He died at the hospital on Dec. 29, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.
On Thursday, ICE said the preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Mavinga is the fourth person to die in ICE custody in the 2020 fiscal year, which began in October. Eight people died in ICE custody in the 2019 fiscal year.
ICE has expanded the number of people it detains to record levels under President Donald Trump. The peak came this summer, when around 55,000 immigrants were in custody in local jails and private prisons across the country. As of mid-December, the agency was detaining nearly 42,000 immigrants in custody.
ICE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ICE officials have long said that it is dedicated to providing timely and comprehensive medical care to immigrants in its custody, noting that they have access to a daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care. The agency has publicized that it spends more than $269 million each year on health care services.
The medical care in ICE detention has come under scrutiny by congressional officials in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it had opened an investigation into the medical care of immigrant detainees in the wake of a BuzzFeed News investigation that revealed a series of allegations of substandard care from a whistleblower.
The congressional committee issued letters demanding a series of documents from the Department of Homeland Security and ICE officials.
BuzzFeed News first reported the memo and documented how it contained reports of detainees being given incorrect medication, suffering from delays in treating withdrawal symptoms, and one who was allowed to become so mentally unstable he lacerated his own penis and required surgery.