Coronavirus complications casuses 5th ICE detainee death

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A fifth person in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement died this week from coronavirus complications as the federal agency tries to keep the spread of the disease under control at its facilities.

Jose Guillen-Vega, 70, died Monday night after being hospitalized for more than a week. According to an ICE press release, the cause of death “was determined to be cardiopulmonary arrest, secondary to complications of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).”

He was the second person to die of coronavirus complications while being held at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., according to ICE’s detention statistics. Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, 34, died in May from complications related to COVID-19 after being hospitalized for more than a month. There have been 158 confirmed cases among the detainees and two confirmed cases among employees at that facility.

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There also was a death due to coronavirus complications at three other ICE detention centers: one at the Glades County Detention Center in Miami, one at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and one at the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia.

There have been 4,568 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in ICE facilities, which represents about a fifth of the total detained population, which was 21,118 as of last week.

ICE says that detainees receive timely medical care, including an initial health screening within 12 hours, and a comprehensive health assessment within 14 days. More than $269 million is spent annually on medical care for ICE detainees.

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Many detainees have pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported this week that the Guillen-Vega suffered from diabetes and hypertension.

“The diverse and fluid detainee population in ICE custody receives comprehensive care for a multitude of pre-existing health ailments and conditions, such as tuberculosis, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, mental health disorders, and dental cavities,” according to the ICE website.

ICE has released hundreds of detainees identified as being more vulnerable to coronavirus complications.

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Guillen-Vega was admitted to the United States in 1999 on a nonimmigrant B-2 visa, and was authorized to stay until June 2000. He stayed past that date, and was convicted of statutory rape and indecent liberties with a child in March 2001. He was released from prison in July of this year, and was awaiting removal to his home country of Costa Rica when he died.

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