American Oversight Sues ICE, CBP for Records of Deaths in Custody

(Photo: BBC World Service)

On Thursday, American Oversight filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for the release of records that may shed light on the deaths of people in the custody of Trump administration immigration authorities.

In late 2018, the deaths of two children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Felipe Gómez Alonso and Jakelin Caal, sparked public outrage. A report by the DHS inspector general found “no misconduct” leading to the death of Gómez Alonso, but failed to mention that the cause of death was “complications of influenza.” Documents uncovered by American Oversight have already brought to light new details about the deeply saddening circumstances leading up to Gómez Alonso’s death.

“Reports have shown us time and time again that deaths in DHS custody are avoidable,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “We can’t trust this administration to follow best practices for keeping detainees safe. Trump’s anti-immigrant policies have made it clear that the safety of migrants is not a priority. Each of these people have families who deserve to know the conditions that led to their loved one’s death.” 

American Oversight has filed a set of Freedom of Information Act requests seeking records including health-care and security compliance analysis reports, mortality reviews, and complaints issued by the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as part of the death notification process, as well as investigation report forms from DHS, CBP, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) related to the deaths of migrants in custody. DHS and its subsidiaries have failed to release the requested records as required by law, and today’s lawsuit filed in the federal district court in the District of Columbia seeks to enforce these requests. 

This lawsuit is the latest in American Oversight’s investigations into the Trump administration’s hardline anti-immigrant regulations, which include family separation, the migrant protection protocols, and the unsafe conditions in migrant detention facilities. 

The full complaint from today’s suit is available here.

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