Immigrant Detainee Dies in Southern California ICE Facility

On October 2nd, 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Nebane Abienwi, a 37-year-old migrant from Cameroon, died in ICE custody in Southern California. In early September, Mr. Abienwi was detained at the United States-Mexico border, where he applied for asylum. For the last month, he was being held inside of the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. Tragically, this case is not an outlier: far too many immigrants have died in ICE custody in recent years. 

The Asylum Seeker Suffered a Brain Hemorrhage

According to reporting from The San Diego Union-Tribune, Nebane Abienwi arrived at a California emergency room after experiencing something that was labeled broadly as a “hypertensive event”. It was later determined that Mr. Abienwi suffered a brain hemorrhage. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said it was still reviewing the incident, little information was provided to the public. 

Immigrant Rights Groups are Demanding Answers

Several prominent immigrant rights groups and activist organizations are seeking answers from the U.S. government. Yet, thus far, ICE has yet to explain what exactly happened to this asylum seeker while he was being held in custody. As quoted by the Los Angeles Times, representatives from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration—a racial justice and migrant rights organization—demanded: “to know the circumstances under which Nebane lost his life.”

Safety Remains a Serious Problem Inside of ICE Facilities

Sadly, basic health and safety remain a very serious problem at American immigration detention facilities. In recent years, dozens of migrants have died while being held in the care of the American government. Many of these migrants were asylum seekers who were fleeing persecution in their home county. 

Earlier this year, a federal government watchdog found egregious violations at several ICE detention facilities. Among other things, the lack of adequate medical care has consistently been a major problem. The heartbreaking case of Nebane Abienwi once again raises serious questions about how migrants are being treated inside of ICE detention centers. 

Last month, California state legislators took an important step towards protecting immigrants in our state—a bill was passed to ban private prisons, including privately operated immigration detention facilities. Still, this is only one small aspect of the problem. Much more needs to be done—particularly at the national level—to ensure every migrant who is being held in custody is provided with safe, secure, and healthy conditions. If your loved one was killed or injured in an immigration detention center, call a lawyer as soon as possible. 

Discuss Your Case With a Top-Rated California Immigration Law Attorney Right Away

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our skilled California immigration attorney fights tirelessly to protect immigrant rights. We handle the complete range of immigration law cases. For a confidential consultation with an experienced attorney, please call us today. From our office in Los Angeles, we represent immigrants and their family members throughout the region, including in West Covina, Santa Monica, Torrance, East Los Angeles, and Lakewood.