Frank Sharry: Enforcing the Law Doesn’t Mean Dismissing Human Dignity
Despite a “massive crisis in detainee medical care” according to internal government documents, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff does not seem to grasp the gravity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) failure to uphold basic standards in the treatment of detainees. The New York Times quoted Secretary Chertoff saying that in “the population of any detention facility, whether it’s a state prison, federal prison, you’re going to get a certain number of deaths.” While acknowledging that “negligence or mistreatment” must be punished, Secretary Chertoff’s remarks do not begin to acknowledge the shocking revelations associated with the death of detainee Hiu Lui Ng, or the fact that deaths such as Mr. Ng’s have been an all-too-frequent occurrence in ICE detainment facilities recently.
Despite persistent complaints of crippling back pain and an inability to walk, Mr. Ng did not receive access to basic health treatment. As a result, his cancer went undiagnosed and untreated, and he died in ICE custody in July. In fact, ICE officials even accused Mr. Ng of faking his medical condition. The Times piece followed an earlier Washington Post report which disclosed that the ICE-administered system had seen numerous other deaths recently. The detainee medical deaths and Secretary Chertoff’s comments are in sharp contrast to the national celebration surrounding the immigrant success story of Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Henry Cejudo, who is the son of a single mother who arrived in this country undocumented. Cejudo says his story is possible “only in America.”
Below is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“Enforcing the law doesn’t mean dismissing human dignity. At a basic level, the immigration debate hinges on what type of nation we want to be. It’s one thing to enforce and uphold the law, but it’s another to callously dismiss the preventable death of someone under your watch as a casualty of the system. We need to infuse the immigration debate and our immigration policies with humanity and commonsense. Olympic wrestler and gold medalist Henry Cejudo was born to undocumented immigrant parents. According to Cejudo, his story was possible “only in America” – let’s make sure our immigration policies still allow such successes to occur.”
Below is a statement from Rev. Julian Gordy, bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
“After hearing about the government’s skyrocketing use of immigration detention and reports of people dying in ICE detention facilities, I visited an ICE contract facility earlier this year and was very concerned with what I saw. As a society, we cannot condone detaining thousands of immigrants every year who pose no threat to public safety or flight risk, especially since ICE’s inadequate medical treatment has led to the death of an alarming number of immigrants like Mr. Ng. We must rethink the way we ‘welcome the stranger’ and seek more humane ways to enforce our immigration laws.”