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Mónica Novoa monica [at] familiesforfreedom.org (monica [at] familiesforfreedom.org)
Abraham Paulos abraham [at] familiesforfreedom.org (abraham [at] familiesforfreedom.org)
Office Ph. 646.290.8720
Families for Freedom Demands an Independent Investigation into
Detainee Suicide at York Detention Center, PA
NEW YORK, October 31, 2013 – We are saddened to report that Families for Freedom (FFF) member, Tiombe Carlos, age 35, has died in Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. Ms. Carlos died of an apparent suicide in York County Prison after being held in detention for nearly three years despite her well-documented severe mental disability and repeated pleas for her release.
We are deeply troubled by the obscure statement released by ICE on October 24, 2013 about Ms. Carlos’ death on October 23, 2013. ICE states that Ms. Carlos was ordered removed on June 21, 2012 but did not disclose that she had been detained 32 months starting in February 2011. Unlike other similar cases, where ICE immediately mentions that suicide victims did not seek medical attention, they issued an opaque statement that omits crucial information. The statement fails to mention that Ms. Carlos, her family and attorneys, advocated for her release because she was unjustly detained and so she could access private medical and mental treatment.
Ms. Carlos was admitted to the United States in perfect mental and physical health as a lawful permanent resident 30 years ago. After being admitted to the United States, she acquired a psychotic disorder and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 15. That diagnosis was again verified by Physicians for Human Rights(PHR) in 2011, which recommended intense medical treatment and also suggested that Ms. Carlos be in the care of her family. In 2012, she underwent a Forensic Psych Evaluation conducted by the Headquarters Post-Order Custody Review Unit as part of the process for designation as a 241.14 case (“Continued detention of removable persons on account of special circumstances”) that would have determined her continued detention. The findings of that evaluation have not been received up until today, 11 months after it was conducted. Her attorney and family persistently called on ICE to release her, yet ICE kept Ms. Carlos in detention, which her attorney described as “horrific, punitive, and inhumane.” ICE was well aware of her medical needs as documented in letters of appeal from Ms. Carlos’ attorney. ICE had ample authority to exercise discretion to release her but repeatedly chose not to.
The draconian immigration detention system has carried out a gross injustice against Ms. Carlos and her family. Her convictions have always been in response to threats and brutal handling by law enforcement, which triggered her mental disability. In fact, the longest sentence she ever received was for assaulting a correction officer who was holding her down.
By several accounts of York County Prison detainees and her family, Ms. Carlos had been repeatedly bullied by detention facility guards. This disturbing development comes on the heels of news that three York County Prison guards are being criminally charged with official oppression and harassment after organizing a wrestling match between inmates in a storage closet and other challenges they called the "Retard Olympics."
We want to know if Ms. Carlos’ inadequate medical treatment and alleged guard abuse endured in ICE custody at the York County Prison were contributing factors to her death. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Families for Freedom demands:
An independent investigation by an agency, autonomous of ICE, into Ms. Carlos’ apparent suicide and also into conduct of staff at York County Prison in charge of her well being.
A report from ICE on York County Prison investigating officer misconduct and treatment of detainees.
That Congress repeal mandatory detention. A policy that requires immigrants be detained without any judicial discretion and has lead to expansion of immigration detention.
Ms. Carlos’ case is emblematic of all that is wrong with mandatory detention and a detention system that does not recognize our humanity and our unique circumstances. We will continue to fight together with Ms. Carlos’ family in search of crucial answers.