Committee Investigates Deaths of Immigrant Children and Adults

Dec 23, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Dec. 23, 2019)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent letters seeking documents following reports of a pattern of negligence and abuse leading to serious harm and the deaths of immigrants detained by the Trump Administration. 

Today’s letters were sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and DHS’ Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL).

Newly released evidence shows that a 16-year-old boy detained by the Border Patrol died from the flu after he was locked in a cell and left for hours without medical treatment despite prolonged symptoms of severe distress. 

“The Department’s failure to care for this sick child appears to be part of a troubling pattern of abuse and poor treatment of immigrants in the Department’s detention centers,” wrote Chairwoman Maloney.  “The lack of treatment appears to be a flagrant violation of CBP’s own detention standards and raises serious questions about whether DHS is failing to treat children and adults with basic human dignity and compassion.”

The evidence also calls into question DHS records and statements regarding this death.  CBP claimed that he “was found un-responsive this morning during a welfare check.”  However, public reporting shows that agents checked on him only after his cellmate notified them of his condition. 

This death was not an isolated incident:  at least seven children have died in government custody since 2018, after nearly a decade without any such deaths. 

According to another recent news report, CRCL received at least 17 complaints of inadequate medical treatment or oversight at nine different ICE facilities, resulting in two preventable surgeries and contributing to four deaths.  These complaints include immigrants receiving incorrect medications, immigrants dealing with severe withdrawal symptoms, and the ICE Health Service Corps’ leadership being “unresponsive or even dishonest when confronted.”

“According to the report, most, if not all, of these incidents were the result of gross negligence on behalf the ICE personnel and medical professionals tasked with caring for detainees,” wrote Chairman Raskin.  “Reportedly, no action was taken by ICE or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to remedy the inadequacies that led to these horrific incidents.” 

In March, CRCL reportedly issued a memorandum recounting allegations that the ICE Health Service Corps “has systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees in facilities throughout the U.S.”  Furthermore, the CRCL memorandum details that, rather than addressing this medical neglect, the ICE Health Service Corps reportedly retaliated against the employee who reported it. 

The Committee and the Subcommittee requested documents by January 10, 2020.


The Committee has been investigating the Trump Administration’s treatment of migrants in government custody for several months. 

  • In July 2019, the Committee held two hearings that highlighted dangerous overcrowding and health and safety violations at DHS immigration facilities.
  • During a hearing on July 18, then-Acting Secretary McAleenan said he would welcome a dialogue about “improving the standards that exist” at these facilities.
  • In August and September 2019, Committee staff inspected multiple DHS detention facilities and witnessed troubling conditions first-hand. 
  • The Committee’s ongoing investigation into U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s use of for-profit contractors to run prisons for immigrants has also raised serious concerns about the poor treatment of migrants.

Read today’s letter to DHS here.

Read today’s letter to ICE here.

Read today’s letter to CRCL here.


116th Congress