WASHINGTON - Medical mismanagement and falsified records may have contributed to the deaths of immigrants held at for-profit detention centers that are run under contract with the federal government, according to a report released Thursday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
The report, based on a yearlong investigation by Democratic committee staffers, recounts numerous examples of medical misdiagnoses, incomplete or incorrect treatment for chronic illnesses and "grossly negligent" responses to infectious diseases including hepatitis, tuberculosis, meningitis and HIV. It also notes severe delays in emergency response to strokes and heart attacks, negligent suicide watches and deficiencies in psychiatric care that led one detainee to self-mutilate.
The investigation focused on facilities under the authority of two Homeland Security agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection.
"This staff report and the documents the Committee obtained explain how the Administration and its private prison contractors have let known problems fester into a full-blown crisis - a crisis that has become far worse during the coronavirus pandemic," Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "This broken system needs fundamental reforms, including enhancing internal and external oversight, ending the use of private prison contractors, and significantly decreasing the number of immigrants detained in the first place - all choices the Administration could make right now."
The investigation was launched in July 2019 by Maloney's predecessor, the late Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland.
In addition to obtaining thousands of pages of internal staff complaints, assessments and whistleblower accounts, congressional staff conducted on-site inspections at 20 facilities in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
The report cites, for instance, falsification of records involving Jean Carlos Jimenez-Joseph, a 27-year-old Panamanian migrant who committed suicide in May 2017 at ICE's Stewart Detention Center in Georgia after reporting hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
Jimenez-Joseph was a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children the ability to live and work in the United States. He was detained 69 days at the Georgia facility, which is run by private prison company CoreCivic, after being arrested for a misdemeanor in 2017.
"In addition to leaving the unit unsupervised on seven occasions the night of Jimenez's suicide, Officer (Redacted) falsely logged that he completed security rounds at 12:00 a.m. and 12:28 a.m., neither of which were corroborated by video surveillance footage," according to an internal ICE review cited in the report.
The House Oversight reports also cites a review by Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Adelanto detention center, a California facility run by the company GEO Group. That review reported that a "failure to hire an effective and qualified clinical leader contributed to the inadequate detainee medical care that resulted in medical injuries, including bone deformities and detainee deaths."