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Immigrant Rights Groups Demand Answers for the Two deaths in Detention Centers this Week

US ICE and Florida’s Department of Corrections Called to Answer for Death of 23-Year Old Immigrant in Custody

Miami, FL— The tragic death Jose Leonardo Lemus Rajo on April 28th, while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Krome Detention Center in Miami, raises concerns from immigrant rights groups who demand answers from ICE and Florida’s state leaders.

“There are many unanswered questions in the tragic death of Mr. Jose Leonard Lemus Rajo, who was only 23 years old,” said Jessica Shulruff Schneider, Supervising Attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “In past reports we have documented the extent to which ICE detainees’ serious physical and mental health issues are routinely ignored.  Sadly, things have not improved and detention can too often mean a death sentence.”

Three days after Rajo was declared dead, Russian immigrant, Igor Zyazin, was found unresponsive in a San Diego immigration detention facility. Both incidents have shed light on the inadequate medical care and inhumane conditions found in detention centers worldwide, including the Australian processing center on the pacific island of Nauru, where two asylum seekers set themselves on fire within the same week.

“Two deaths in one week is tragically telling of the state of immigration enforcement in the U.S. today,”said Isabel Vinent, Deputy Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “The bloated immigrant detention regime is indefensible and public authorities cannot—morally or legally—defend the continued incarceration of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees. It’s time to end local and state complicity in this travesty, and demand ICE out of Florida.”

A total of 159 people have died while in custody of ICE custody since October 2003. Even though ICE is required to make public the deaths of individuals in custody, advocates point to instances where ICE has refused to count certain individuals who passed away shortly after being released.

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The Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide alliance of over 50 member organizations, including farmworkers, students, service providers, grassroots organizations and legal advocates, who come together for the fair treatment of all people, including immigrants.