Death toll for those in ICE custody is highest since 2006

Death toll for those in ICE custody is highest since 2006
© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll for immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody reached the highest level since fiscal 2006 after two more people died this week. 

ICE this week announced the deaths of a Taiwanese man detained in Florida on Thursday and a Canadian man detained in Virginia on Friday. Those two deaths brought the total death toll for fiscal 2020, which ends Sept. 30, to 17, just two shy of the total in fiscal 2006, according to ICE records

ICE said Thursday that Taiwanese national Kuan Hui Lee, 51, died Wednesday afternoon at the Kendall Regional Medical Center in Florida after he was diagnosed with what the agency said was a “massive intercranial hemorrhage.” He entered ICE custody on Jan. 24 after overstaying his temporary visa status. 

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The agency announced Friday that James Hill, a 72-year-old man from Canada, died late Thursday night at a Virginia hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for several weeks. The cause of death was not immediately clear, but a source told BuzzFeed News he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He entered ICE custody in April after serving more than 13 years of a 26 year prison sentence for health care fraud and distributing a controlled substance and had been ordered to be deported.

The total death toll in fiscal 2020 is double that of 2019 despite a drop in the number of immigrants in ICE detention. 

“Many of these deaths were avoidable, unnecessary, and a direct result of the Trump administration’s refusal to take basic steps to protect the health and safety of detainees,” John Sandweg, a former ICE director during the Obama administration, told BuzzFeed News.