U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds thousands of immigrants in detention facilities across the United States. It is required to report all deaths of detainees in its custody, to investigate those deaths, and to release those investigatory reports.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a serious problem in ICE detention facilities; in 2020, ICE reported its highest annual death toll in immigration detention in fifteen years. Nevertheless, the number of deaths is likely much higher than reported by ICE, because multiple media reports have noted that ICE releases individuals from custody on their deathbeds, thereby avoiding reporting their deaths to the public, investigating are reporting the circumstances of their deaths, and paying for their medical costs.
In July 2021, the ACLU submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to ICE, its parent agency the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the DHS Inspector General’s office, seeking records relating to ICE’s treatment of hospitalized detainees and detainees released from custody prior to their death. When no records had been received as of October 2021, we and the National ACLU filed this lawsuit asking the court to order those agencies to produce the requested records.