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DHS OIG Investigates the Deaths of Three Foreign Nationals

The joint investigation did not identify any criminal violations. However, the team noted areas of non-compliance pertaining to significant self-harm/suicide prevention/intervention, detention files, admission/release and custody classification system.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has reported its findings following investigations into the deaths of three foreign nationals.

DHS OIG; the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR); and the ICE Health Service Corps have jointly investigated the death of an ICE detainee that occurred at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown, Ohio.

An autopsy by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be hanging. The Mahoning County Coroner’s Office determined the manner of death to be suicide.

As part of this joint investigation, the investigative team interviewed NEOCC facility staff and medical staff. The team also reviewed the autopsy report, coroner’s report, medical records, incident report, and relevant policies and procedures.

The joint investigation did not identify any criminal violations. However, ICE OPR External Reviews and Analysis Unit (ERAU) determined the NEOCC failed to comply with four requirements of the ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards 2011 (PBNDS). The areas of non-compliance pertained to significant self-harm/suicide prevention/intervention, detention files, admission/release and custody classification system. The ERAU also noted five areas of concern regarding the individual’s medical care, safety, and security at the NEOCC, although they were not violations of the PBNDS.

Another investigation was initiated after information was received from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Professional Responsibility that a Mexican national passed away from medical related issues. The individual was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso, TX, on March 17, 2019, was transferred to Las Palmas Medical Center on the evening of March 17, 2019, and died on March 18, 2019.

DHS OIG reviewed video from the Paso del Norte Processing Center and interviewed undocumented noncitizens, Border Patrol Agents, medical personnel, and Emergency Medical Technicians to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the individual’s death.

The County of El Paso, Office of the Medical Examiner and Forensic Laboratory deemed that the individual died of natural causes, and cited streptococcus pneumonia and influenza A/H3 pneumonia with hypertensive cardiovascular disease as a significant contributing factor.

During the course of OIG’s investigation, no evidence was found that actions taken by DHS personnel or contractors contributed to the death of the individual.

A further investigation was initiated when OIG was informed that on January 27, 2020, a Cuban citizen had died at Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami, FL. The individual had been detained at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, FL, since January 14, 2020. On January 23, 2020, the individual was transported and admitted to the hospital for an evaluation.

DHS OIG’s investigation, which included records reviews, interviews and a review of surveillance camera footage, revealed that the individual died of natural causes. This investigation also uncovered no evidence that indicated anyone employed by ICE and/or Krome Service Processing Center staff caused or contributed to the individual’s death.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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