DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request this morning seeking records related to the arrest, detention, and subsequent death of Kamyar Samimi, an Iranian man who died earlier this month while in Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, a for-profit detention center operated by GEO Group, Inc.
On December 4, ICE issued a brief news release announcing Samimi’s death. According to ICE, Samimi fell ill the morning of December 2 and was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m., with the preliminary cause listed as cardiac arrest.
“Once again, a death in ICE custody raises serious questions about whether the agency is continuing to fail in its legal duty to provide necessary and adequate medical care to detainees in its custody,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.
In February 2016, the ACLU co-authored a report, Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignored Deaths in Detention, which concluded that ICE’s “failure to provide adequate medical care has continued to result in unnecessary deaths.”
Since 2003, 177 immigrant detainees have died while in custody in ICE facilities, including 12 deaths in the last year. Last spring, a Human Rights Watch report found “serious lapses in health care that have led to severe suffering and at times the preventable or premature death of individuals held in immigration detention facilities.”
“Immigration detention facilities, like the one operated by GEO Group in Aurora, are all too often cloaked in secrecy, offering little to no transparency into the way detainees are treated within their walls,” Silverstein said. “We are invoking the Freedom of Information Act to further the public’s right to know what goes on in these secretive taxpayer-funded institutions.”
Samimi came to the United States as a student in 1976. According to ICE’s statement, agents arrested him at his home on November 17, due to a minor 2005 drug conviction for which he served no time and completed community service.
“Mr. Samimi’s arrest, detention, and death in custody display the inhumanity of our current federal immigration policies,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian. “He lived in the US for 40 years. ICE arrested him at his home with the intent to ship him off to a country he no longer knew. Then, they locked him up in a detention facility, where he died two weeks later. ICE gave very little detail about what happened but made sure to mention his 12-year-old drug possession charge. The community deserves better, and that starts with ICE explaining what led to Mr. Samimi’s tragic death.”
ACLU Report (2/16): Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignored Deaths in Detention
Human Rights Watch Report (5/17): Systemic Indifference: Dangerous and Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention
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