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A Mexican Man Died In ICE Custody After Testing Positive For COVID-19

The man was detained at a facility in Georgia where three other immigrants have already died after contracting the coronavirus.

Posted on January 31, 2021, at 4:55 p.m. ET

Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe / Getty Images

Detainees at the Stewart Detention Center are escorted through a corridor in May 2012.

A 57-year-old Mexican man died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a hospital in Georgia on Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19, a source with knowledge of the matter told BuzzFeed News.

The man had been in custody at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where three other immigrants have already died after contracting COVID-19. In 2020, several ICE detainees died in custody after contracting the disease.

ICE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Immigrant advocates have long warned of the risks detainees face from COVID-19 in ICE custody due to the inherent problems within jails, such as a lack of space to accommodate social distancing. ICE officials have maintained that they are committed to protecting those vulnerable to the disease and have instituted measures, including releasing detainees, to help prevent outbreaks.

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, a separate committee report issued by the House Homeland Security Committee found that ICE detainees are often given deficient medical care and that detention centers use segregation as a threat against immigrants. ICE, along with the private detention companies, pushed back on the claims.

The man who died Saturday appears to be the second person to have died in ICE custody this fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 21 immigrants died in ICE custody, the highest number since 2005.

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.”

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.