Advocates see a growing trend where ICE releases immigrants to their death.
Adelanto, CA – A long term client of Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles who was held in Adelanto Immigrant Detention Facility for approximately two years was left to die by ICE and “released” only when his medical conditions worsened to the point that it was clear he would not recover.
Margaret Hellerstein, Martin’s attorney says “ICE officials knew that Martin was dying and they withheld this information from us so that his death would not happen in ICE custody. Not only did they fail to release him while he still had a chance, but they also deliberately led me to believe that he had been released into the community and was simply missing. It’s chilling to think that when I was on the phone begging ICE for information so that I could track Martin down, he had already been dead for a week.”
Martin Vargas-Arellano suffered a stroke on March 3 2021, was “released” from ICE custody on March 5, and died less than 72 hours later on March 8th 2021. He was a 55 year old Mexican National, and was medically vulnerable to COVID-19 due to numerous preexisting health conditions, including diabetes, Hepatitis C, cellulitis, gout, high blood pressure, and schizophrenia. He often used a wheelchair and was in and out of the hospital every few weeks even before he contracted COVID. Nonetheless, ICE declined to release him. Martin contracted severe COVID-19 in December 2020 and never fully recovered.
ICE was well aware of his condition and vulnerabilities since he was ordered released on April 2nd 2020 by Judge Hatter. Unfortunately, Martin’s housing fell through due to an administrative issue at the last minute and the order was never carried out. His attorney then tried other avenues, including humanitarian parole. ICE declined the request for parole in a one-sentence letter and refused to release Martin under the Fraihat litigation despite the fact that his disabilities were profound and undeniable.
“It’s devastating. They watched this man deteriorate for a year and did nothing to help. We demanded his release multiple times but ICE and GEO repeatedly refused. This is the second time they released someone days before their death. What’s more, they covered it up. This is unconscionable” according to Margaret an attorney for Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project of Los Angeles.
The actions by ICE have raised a number of red flags and cause for concern regarding the systemic violence, medical negligence and inhumane practices. There is an increasing concern regarding other instances where ICE has released individuals to their death.
Jose Luis Ibarra, was the most recent known case of an individual dying days after being set free. He was in a coma and forcibly made to sign his immigration papers.
“Martin had no immediate family members and no one to speak up for him except his attorneys. If we do not hold ICE accountable, they will continue to treat vulnerable immigrants as though their lives mean nothing. The fact that ICE went to such great lengths to cover this up is evidence that they know what they did was wrong. They just don’t care.”