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Man dies at immigration detention facility in Florence

A Mexican man died at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Florence, Ariz., on Wednesday.

Abel Reyes-Clemente, 54, was was found unconscious and not breathing, officials said.  He had been transferred to ICE custody at the Florence Service Processing Center in February after serving time at the Maricopa County Jail for a misdemeanor conviction of driving under the influence. ICE said that Reyes had been deported five times, most recently in 2008. 

On April 1, Reyes was put under medical observation after he showed "signs and symptoms" of the flu, officials said. 

Two days later, at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday, employees at the facility found Reyes "unresponsive and not breathing," and they alerted the ICE Health Service Corps medical staff. ICE employees began life-saving efforts and called paramedics, who arrived and attempted to revive Reyes, and contacted doctors at the Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa. At 6:33 a.m., doctors at the Mountain Vista Medical Center declared Reyes dead. 

An autopsy is pending to determine the official cause of death, officials said. 

The agency said that "consistent with the agency’s protocols, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been advised about the death." The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility has also been contacted, officials said. 

The Mexican consulate has also been advised of Reyes' death, they said.  

Reyes is the fourth detainee to die in ICE custody in fiscal year 2019. 

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Three years ago, two independent health experts reviewed the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 18 immigrants held in detention by U.S. immigration authorities, and found that "subpar care" contributed to at least seven deaths. 

In a report published by Human Rights Watch, the group said that it reviewed a series of reports created by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding the deaths of detainees from 2012 to 2015 at facilities across the country, including four deaths at one maintained by a private company in Eloy, Arizona. This included reviews of reports from ICE's own Office of Detention Oversight, the group found that officials had violated their own policies in some cases, and that in others delays in care had contributed to the deaths of immigrants. 

Last year, the group updated their report and reiterated their findings that "inadequate medical care contributed or led to the person’s death," after reviewing 15 detainee deaths from December 2015 to April 2017. In 2017 alone, 12 people died in ICE custody at detention facilities nationwide, including those managed by ICE and private-prison companies managed under an ICE contract. 

ICE also faces a lawsuit after a 19-month old toddler died in March 2018 from a series of complications at a facility in Dilley, Texas. That lawsuit unraveled a "middleman" contract between the city of Eloy, about 20 miles southwest of Florence, and ICE as the City of Eloy was included in the $40 million lawsuit. 

ICE said that all detainees "receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care." 

"Pursuant to our commitment to the welfare of those in the agency’s custody, ICE annually spends more than $269 million on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees," the agency said. 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

The logo for Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic, hangs over the front gate of a prison complex in Eloy, where unauthorized immigrants are held under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


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