Leaked Memo Alleges Poor Medical Care Resulting in Deaths at ICE Detention Facilities

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) is investigating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for lack of adequate medical and mental health care in detention facilities across the U.S. This update is based on a leaked CRCL memo directed to ICE, which is dated March 20, 2019. The release of this memo coincides with a report of the death of a French immigrant in ICE custody, the fourth death of an ICE detainee since October 2019.

Memo Alleges Serious Medical and Mental Health Failures by ICE

The CRCL memo is based on allegations from the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which is responsible for ensuring independent and objective audits, inspections, and investigations of DHS programs. The memo lists seventeen separate cases, including at least four in which the patients died. Some of the alleged incidents include:

  • Facility psychiatrist was notified several times about detainee suffering from psychosis, but no treatment was provided. This led to the detainee severely mutilating himself, requiring hospitalization and surgery.
  • Delayed treatment and misdiagnosis of an 8-year-old detainee’s infection resulted in the child having to have part of his skull removed.
  • Medical staff was notified of a detainee’s critical lab results, indicating that he had extremely thin blood. Despite this, the physician kept him on an aspirin regimen for 6 days, possibly resulting in his eventual hospitalization in critical condition.

The memo also alleges that ICE leadership was notified of many of these incidents, but failed to take appropriate action. And in at least one case, ICE leadership submitted a “very misleading” report regarding a detainee’s cause of death.


The CRCL memo raises serious concerns about the conditions in the ICE facilities. Given that this information has only come to the attention of the public because of the actions of a whistleblower, it highlights the need for transparency from the federal government


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