What To Do If a Loved One Dies in ICE Custody

There have long been serious concerns regarding the treatment of detainees by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to ICE’s own internal records, 141 immigrants died in ICE custody between 2003 and 2013. Many observers believe that the agency’s negligence and mistreatment of detainees have contributed to a significant number of those deaths. For example, in 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted a comprehensive review of the records of 18 migrants who died in ICE custody, and concluded that subpar medical care and violations of detention standards contributed to at least seven of those fatalities.

Now, in the early months of the Donald Trump administration, there are concerns that conditions are worsening in ICE’s detention facilities. Last month, CNN reported that two immigrants died in ICE custody in the same week. Sadly, now more than ever, families members need to know what to do if their loved one passes away in an immigration detention facility.

What Rights Do Family Members Have?

Notification of the Death

The ICE facility should make reasonable efforts to notify the next of kin of their loved one’s death. It is important to have your information on file at the facility, to the best extent you can, since unfortunately, ICE detention centers and other U.S. prison facilities are notoriously bad about communicating with family members in a transparent, open and efficient manner. That being said, you do have a right to information. If you are having trouble obtaining it, you should speak to an attorney.

Claiming the Body

Under United States law, a person’s surviving family members have a basic right to claim the body after they pass away. This is true even if the deceased person was detained in immigration custody or even in prison at the time of the death. If your family member has passed away at an ICE detention facility, you can claim the body so that you can make proper funeral and burial arrangements.

Taking Legal Action  

If your loved one died in ICE custody, and you believe that the facility’s negligence or misconduct in some way contributed to their death, you have a right to take legal action. Indeed, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible detention facility. Many, but not all, ICE detention centers are run by private corporations.

For perspective on the scope of this problem, Correct Care Solutions (CCS), one of the nation’s largest private prison corporations, which runs both jails and ICE detention centers, stated that there were currently more than 200 wrongful death lawsuits pending against the company in at least 30 different American states.

We Support Immigrants and Their Families in L.A.

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, we provide immigration law services to families throughout Southern California. If you need help, please do not hesitate to call our team today at

(213) 514-8870 for immediate assistance. If we can not assist you directly, we may be able to put you in touch with the appropriate immigration resources for your circumstances.