Video: Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention

New evidence has emerged of dangerously subpar medical care in United States immigration detention at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to increase its use.

On November 25, a group of activists delivered a petition to the Nakamoto Group to call out the company for its alleged role in allowing deadly and dangerous conditions in United States immigration detention centers to continue unchecked.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts with the Nakamoto Group to inspect facilities holding ICE detainees for more than 72 hours. But facilities with serious deficiencies have passed Nakamoto inspections year after year, including both before and after deaths that occurred following severely inadequate medical care.

For example, when Jose de Jesus Deniz-Sahagun died by suicide at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona in 2015, he was the third suicide since April 2013 and the fifth since 2005. The ICE investigation into his death flagged that the facility did not have a suicide prevention plan, in clear violation of the detention standards it had agreed to in its contract with ICE. But the Nakamoto Group’s 2012 inspection of the facility, which reviewed a 2011 suicide attempt, concluded the detention center had an appropriate policy and procedure for suicide prevention.

A US Department of Homeland Security investigation published in June 2018 found that because of the flaws in inspections of ICE detention facilities, deficiencies “remain uncorrected for years.” According to the investigation, “typically, three to five inspectors have only three days to complete the inspection, interview 85 to 100 detainees, brief facility staff, and begin writing their inspection report for ICE.” An ICE employee told investigators this was not “enough time to see if the [facility] is actually implementing” required policies. Other ICE personnel described Nakamoto inspections to investigators as being “very, very, very difficult to fail” and “useless.”

Human Rights Watch contacted Nakamoto Group earlier today about its record of inspections at ICE detention centers but had yet to receive a response.

The US government, through ICE, has human rights obligations to identify and remedy serious problems, including by conducting rigorous inspections, to address its systemic failure as well as its maintaining of a sprawling system of detention that unnecessarily detains tens of thousands of asylum seekers and long-term residents. But like all private companies that operate these immigrant jails, Nakamoto also bears a responsibility to respect human rights and ensure they do not contribute to rights abuses. The petition is an important step to hold private companies accountable for their role in rights abuses in ICE detention facilities.