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Nicaraguan man sought better life before he died in ICE custody in Aurora, family says

Cousins described Melvin Ariel Calero-Mendoza as a good person who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. His family said his two children are ages 7 and 15.

AURORA, Colo. — Family members said Melvin Ariel Calero-Mendoza was seeking asylum in the United States before he died in ICE custody Thursday. 

His cousins described Calero-Mendoza as a good person who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. His family said his two children are ages 7 and 15.

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In a press release, ICE said the 39-year-old man from Nicaragua died at a hospital in Aurora, but the agency won't say why he needed to be taken there. 

His cousins, Douglas and Hector Calero, said a cellmate told them Calero-Mendoza collapsed and was convulsing in the facility.

An autopsy is still pending to determine the cause of death. The Caleros said ICE hasn't reached out to the family to explain what happened, and the family wants to know more.

A group of community members gathered outside the ICE detention facility in Aurora on Tuesday night to demand answers as well.

Jeanette Vizguerra with Abolish ICE Denver led the vigil for Calero-Mendoza. She was detained in this facility in 2009 and 2013, and on Tuesday she wondered if the Calero-Mendoza got the medical care he needed. 

"The people in there don't have a voice," a translator for Vizguerra said. "They can't do nothing about it. We are their voice."

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network is another group trying to learn more about Calero-Mendoza's death. They're concerned about his passing because of a number of reports they've submitted in which detainees detail a lack of medical care.

RELATED: Reports detail inadequate medical care at Aurora ICE Detention Center

A report referring to a man known as Musa said he suffered from mental health issues and physical ailments under the facility's care. 

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."

At the vigil on Tuesday, Vizguerra said she has heard similar stories from other detainees.

"We want equal rights. We want them to be treated right," the translator for Vizguerra said. "We want them to be safe."

Calero-Mendoza's family members described him as hardworking, strong and healthy. They said Calero-Mendoza never spoke about feeling ill, but his cousins said he may not have wanted to worry his family, including his mother who is sick.

RELATED: Man from Nicaragua dies in custody at Aurora ICE facility

According to ICE, Calero-Mendoza was taken into the detention facility in Aurora in May. The agency said an immigration judge with the Executive Office of Immigration Review issued a decision on Oct. 5 ordering Calero-Mendoza to be deported.

There was a very slim chance of the government granting asylum because of two failed attempts at sponsorship, according to his cousin Douglas Calero.

Douglas Calero said his cousin watched many Nicaraguans leave the detention center. His niece Paholita Calero thinks waiting so long in the facility may have caused "damage to his heart." She still wants a photo to believe her uncle is really gone. 

In a press release, ICE said they are firmly committed to the health and welfare of all of those in custody and they emphasized the medical care that's provided to people throughout their stay.


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