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A Mexican Man Has Become The Seventh Immigrant To Die In ICE Custody Since October

The 34-year-old man's death in Ohio means the agency is close to eclipsing the total number of in-custody deaths for all of the 2019 fiscal year.

Last updated on February 21, 2020, at 12:50 p.m. ET

Posted on February 20, 2020, at 11:56 p.m. ET

Associated Press

Detainees are shown in a residential pod at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center.

A 34-year-old Mexican man died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at an Ohio hospital Thursday, according to a source familiar with the incident.

The death marks the seventh while in ICE custody during the 2020 fiscal year — just one short of the number of deaths in all of the 2019 fiscal year.

In a statement confirming the death on Friday, ICE officials said the man, identified as Hernandez Colula, was transported to the hospital after detention staff found him unresponsive in his cell. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

According to ICE, the preliminary cause of death appears to be self-inflicted strangulation, although the case remains under investigation.

Colula was arrested by Border Patrol agents on Dec. 4, 2014, in Rochester, New York, and transferred into ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

ICE said it is "firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody" and that the agency conducts comprehensive reviews of all such cases.

Officials have long said that the agency 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.

In December, 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 story that revealed a series of allegations of substandard care from a whistleblower.

BuzzFeed News first reported the memo and documented how it contained reports of detainees being given incorrect medication and suffering from delays in treating withdrawal symptoms, as well as one who was allowed to become so mentally unstable he lacerated his own penis and required surgery.

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.