By Jennifer Kelly
On June 30, Honduran migrant Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres was found “unresponsive in his dormitory” while in ICE custody at the Houston Contract Detention Facility. He was transferred to Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital where he was pronounced dead at the age of 30.
Balderramos-Torres died after nearly a month in ICE custody. Although the cause of death is not yet known, ICE has been quick to cover for itself, stating, “comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay.”
This lie rings hollow in the face of overwhelming evidence of abuse and neglect in these facilities, as well as the eleven people that have already died in the custody of federal immigration services since September.
The conditions in a child detention facility in Clint, TX were described as similar to “torture facilities,” and in June, Homeland Security itself found and reported on deplorable conditions in ICE detention centers, including sub-standard medical care, mold, nooses in detainee cells, poor and expired food, lack of clothing and soap, and a ban on in-person visitation to detainees.
The Houston Contract Detention Facility is not a government-run center; it is a private detention center run by the private prison company CoreCivic. Out of the average 300,000 immigrants held each year, nearly 75% are jailed by private prison companies.
CoreCivic proudly proclaims on its website that it does not house “unaccompanied minors,” but this empty technicality falls flat in light of the deaths that have occurred under their watch.
Like many other companies, CoreCivic seeks to profit off of the violence of US imperialism, turning the orchestrated tragedy of imperialist war on the nations of Latin America into millions of dollars. “This is probably the most robust kind of sales environment we’ve seen in probably 10 years,” CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told a room of investors in 2018.
While the people witness the horrors of the violence at the border and the squalor of these detention centers, these companies only see an opportunity for profit. Another dead detainee only amounts to a public relations complication for these bloodsuckers.
This is not the first instance of bad press for this facility. Despite ICE’s assurance that they provide “comprehensive medical care,” there have been outbreaks of mumps in their facilities across Texas, at least 284 cases from October to June. Fifteen of those cases of mumps, an easily preventable disease, came from the Houston Contract Detention Facility.
Much more damning is the high number of deaths reported at this detention center, giving it the dubious distinction of ranking third in the country for reported deaths of detainees.
Since 2003, there have been nine deaths reported at the HCDF. According to a recent investigation, two of these deaths showed clear medical neglect on the part of ICE and numerous violations of the government’s already dubious standards for care.
Not only did ICE withhold their reports on the deaths from family members and the public, but these reports show that they completely failed to render aid to unwell detainees. One such death resulted after a man collapsed and the emergency response team failed to perform CPR, bring any emergency equipment required by ICE such as oxygen or a defibrillator, or call 911 for 8 full minutes. This is based on ICE’s own reporting, and can be only part of the greater truth. This is just one example of the so-called “comprehensive health care” which ICE provides: abuse, neglect, incompetence, and malicious cover-ups.
ICE and CoreCivic will try to pass the buck in order to cover up the cause of Balderramos-Torres’ death, but the people know that his blood is on their hands and that his blood and the blood of millions stain the hands of US Imperialism. The masses clamor for resistance and revolutionary solutions to the horrors of ICE raids and the squalor of their detention centers, and with every additional immigrant death that clamor grows louder.