Monday, August 24, 2009

Hurdles Shown in Detention Reform

Published: August 20, 2009
New York Times

In the fall of 2006, a man’s death brought a team of government
investigators to the large, privately run immigration
jail in Eloy, Ariz., in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson. Medical care was
so poor, the team later warned federal immigration officials, that “detainee
welfare is in jeopardy.”

Another death there soon spurred another inquiry, and another scathing
report was issued about the care provided by the private company, the Corrections Corporation of
But the government scrutiny did not add up to much for Felix
Franklin Rodriguez-Torres, 36, an Ecuadorean construction worker who wound up in
Eloy that fall as an unauthorized immigrant after being jailed for petty larceny
in New York City. By mid-December, a fellow detainee told the man’s relatives,
Mr. Rodriguez lay pleading for medical help on the floor of his cell, unable to

He died weeks later of testicular cancer, a typically fast-growing but
treatable disease, which had gone undiagnosed and untreated during his two
months at Eloy, which holds more than 1,500 detainees. And despite a high-level
discussion of his case among federal immigration officials while he was dying —
captured in e-mail
between Washington and Arizona — his death on Jan. 18, 2007, was
not listed on the roster of detention fatalities that the agency produced under
pressure last year and updated in April.

His death, and the damning reports that preceded it, are coming to light
now only through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American
Civil Liberties Union
. On Monday, after
inquiries about Mr. Rodriguez’s death by The New York Times, the Immigration and Customs
agency added his name and nine others to the public
— including another unrecorded detainee death at Eloy, in 2005.


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