DENVER, Colorado — A 39-year-old man from Nicaragua died while in custody at the ICE detention facility in Aurora on Oct. 13. It is the same facility where immigration lawyers and advocates have filed reports about what they consider as inadequate medical care.
The federal agency said Melvin Calero-Mendoza passed away at a hospital Thursday, but very few other details about his death were released.
It's still unknown how Calero-Mendoza tried to enter the United States, but immigration lawyers believe that he may have been seeking asylum. He was not legally represented by an attorney while in ICE's custody, so the circumstances surrounding his entry and status remain largely unknown.
The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network is still trying to learn more about Calero-Mendoza's death, but they remain concerned about the circumstances surrounding his passing due to a number of reports they have submitted, in which detainees detail a lack of medical care.
A report referring to a man known as Musa says that he suffered from mental health issues as well as physical ailments under their care.
The report submitted by RMIAN says, "Musa also states that authorities at Aurora threatened to stop giving him his psychiatric medicine after he expressed concerns that he had COVID19 symptoms."
This past week, Musa returned to Sierra Leone after spending 18 months in ICE detention.
"That place, believe it or not, I’m happy to be deported. I’ll put it like that," said Musa. "I would rather be outside, struggling, scrapping to survive everyday rather than be in that place."
In an interview from Sierra Leone, Musa said that he broke parts of his front teeth while eating food that was provided to him at the facility. He said that he did not receive medical care when he requested, but when it was convenient for staff. Musa said that during COVID-19, many precautions also were not taken.
"That place, America is better than that place. And that place should not be existent. That place should not exist. America is a place for hope, and that place is a hopeless place."
One man from El Salvador said in a separate report, "They even say that they will not get us medical help unless we're dying. Not until we are dead will they help us. I would not wish this on anybody. There were so many bad experiences."
In a press release, ICE didn't share information about the care Calero-Mendoza received. The agency did talk about its commitment to the health and welfare of all of those in custody and the medical care provided to people throughout their stay.
ICE said it spends more than $315 million on healthcare services provided to people in the agency's custody.
The last time someone in ICE custody died at this Aurora facility was in 2017.
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