A 40-year-old Russian asylum seeker asphyxiated himself in his jail cell, and was taken off life support after 10 days at the St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday. Amar Mergensana, who was arrested last December at the San Ysidro port of entry without the proper immigration documentation, staged an 86-day hunger strike while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and was scheduled to be returned to Russia later this month.
“I would prefer to die on this soil than go back to Russia,” Mergensana told Crosscut in a recent interview.
ICE notified Russian officials of Mergensana’s death, and also contacted his next of kin. A medical examiner determined that he hung himself in his jail cell at the Northwest Detention Center. He reportedly ended his hunger strike on Sept. 19, and started consuming fresh fruit, meal replacement shakes and electrolytes.
Mergensana is the second detainee to pass away in ICE custody in fiscal year 2019. Seven detainees died in ICE custody in FY 2018.
Approximately 40 people are gathered outside of Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma right now, holding a vigil for Amar Mergensana, an asylum seeker who died over the weekend. pic.twitter.com/h6THwTiepu
— Matt M. McKnight (@mattmillsphoto) November 27, 2018