Detainee’s Death in Immigration Custody Protested at Hudson County Correctional Facility
KEARNY, NEW JERSEY (June 28, 2017) – Immigrant Rights Group rallied on Monday, June 26 in front of the Hudson County Correctional Facility (HCCF) to protest the death of 35-year-old Honduran immigrant Rolando Meza Espinoza, who died while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) believes Espinosa’s death could have been prevented had ICE officials not ignored Espinosa’s numerous requests to take the proper drugs needed to treat his chronic illness.
“Immigrant Rights advocates have been calling attention to this issue for a long time, and officials have failed to make promised improvements,” said Dina Mansour, outreach coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, one of the organizers of the rally. “It was only a matter of time before a death occurred here. We have long been complaining about the culture of neglect that exists at this facility, which is one of the worst in the state.”
Concurred Sally Pillay, who along with her colleague Rosa Santana, both of First Friends of New York/New Jersey, frequently inspected the Hudson County Correctional Facility and noted its unsanitary conditions. Mold filled showers and water fountains that left skin conditions on detainees.
“Failure to provide adequate medical care has continued to result in unnecessary deaths, with the total rising to ten this year,” said Pillay. “The government continues to demonstrate a lack of concern for the health of and well-being of detained immigrants. First Friends of NJ and NY has expressed dire concern about Hudson County’s contract with GFG Health Systems,
with the continuous violations of inadequate medical care, warning about the potential loss of life, which saddens us that it held true for Rolando, something that we do believe could have been avoided if timely medical care was provided.
The NJAIJ and its member organizations are calling on the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders to do the following:
- Sever Hudson County’s relationship with ICE
- Ensure that Hudson County approves necessary surgeries, medication and provide medical records of individuals in a timely manner.
- Establish a permanent Independent Medical Oversight Board that will be responsible for monitoring conditions at HCCF.
- Review contract with its medical service provider to ensure that the services they provide adhere to human rights standards and quality of care.
Advocates at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) hold county officials accountable for the failing prison health system which continues to fail detainees.
“Mr. Espinoza’s death is a result of a culture of benign neglect that goes on within the Hudson County jail system,” said Serges Demefack, end detention and deportation project coordinator for the AFSC. “History will remember that Hudson County and Jail officials have refused to positively respond to immigrant rights advocates’ requests to improve detention conditions. It is time for change at Hudson County Correctional facility.”
Supporters of the protest are also calling on Hudson County officials to immediately appoint additional independent members to the Board, including a psychiatrist, and a medical doctor with experience working with detainees so that future deaths are prevented.
As for Espinosa, his family believes he may still be alive today had ICE officials not mistaken his identity for another person.
According to his lawyer, Manuel Portela, Espinoza, a construction worker, was arrested on a 2005 deportation order at his place of employment March 28, and transferred to the Hudson County Correction Center the following day. During his arrest, Espinoza was shown a photo of a man who did not resemble him. “The man was taller, thinner, and had a darker complexion than my client,” said Portela. “Despite the difference in appearance, ICE officers continued to arrest my client. They proceeded to arrest him even though he did not look like the photo that was presented.”
After two attorneys visited Espinoza in custody, they found that the 2005 deportation warrant had no weight, and they immediately demanded their client’s release, which ICE officers refused. A bond hearing was set up for June 8, which Espinoza did not attend because he was already in the hospital. “When we called June 12 to inquire about Mr. Espinoza, we were told he had expired on Saturday, June 10. He was not adequately treated for his medical conditions.”
According to Portela, Espinoza was the sole provider of his wife and eight-year-old son.
With Portela at the rally was civil attorney Bobby Steinberg who is pursuing an unlawful arrest and improper medical attention law suits on behalf of the family.