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Grijalva: Investigate migrant deaths at Eloy Detention Center

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Grijalva: Investigate migrant deaths at Eloy Detention Center

  •  Grijalva on election night, November 2014.
    Paul Ingram/ Grijalva on election night, November 2014.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva is calling on the Justice Department to investigate reports of two deaths of migrant men held at a privately run Arizona facility.

More than 200 immigrant detainees at the Eloy center launched a hunger strike over the weekend, demanding an end to "brutal and inhumane conditions" and independent investigations into the deaths. Officials have denied that a strike is taking place.

Grijalva pressed federal authorities to investigate.

"Eloy Detention Center is in the business of detaining people for profit, but that does not exempt them from upholding the law," he said. "The fact that some this information is seeping out of the seams, as opposed to being reported and addressed outright, only furthers the concerns."

"I am alarmed at reports that not one, but two detainees have died while in custody" at the for-profit detention center contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Arizona Democrat said. The facility, at which alleged illegal immigrants are held, is run by Corrections Corporations of America, a private prison contractor.

"José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún and a second un-named man reportedly faced abusive treatment, including beatings, tazings and solitary confinement," a news release from Grijalva's office said.

"We are not learning of these abuses – and one case, not learning of the death at all – through official channels. We are only hearing from the detainees inside," Grijalva said.

Deniz-Sahagún, a 31-year-old Mexican national, was found dead in his cell by staff on May 20 at the center between Tucson and Phoenix. Emergency responders attempted to revive him, but were unsuccessful, according to a press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Various news articles also indicate that a second man, whose identity remains unknown, was tazed by detention center guards despite significant medical problems, which resulted in his death," Grijalva wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking her to order "thorough and public investigation."

"As the Eloy Detention Center is privately run, for-profit facility contracted by the Department of Homeland Security, it is essential that this investigation be transparent and open to the public," he said.

ICE has confirmed four fatalities of detainees in their custody so far in 2015. In 2013, two detainees committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells while in custody at the Eloy Detention Center.

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