Federal immigration officials on Monday removed all of their detainees from a Rhode Island facility under investigation following the death of a detainee earlier this year.
The removal of the 153 immigrant detainees from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls took all day to complete, said Paula Grenier, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of the detainees were moved to other facilities in northeastern states pending a full review of Wyatt, she said.
ICE officials began investigating the facility after the August death of Hiu Liu "Jason" Ng, Grenier said. She declined to say whether any information gleaned from the investigation led to the decision to relocate detainees.
Ng's family claims that the 34-year-old Chinese computer engineer, who had settled in New York City and was being held for overstaying a visa, received substandard medical care at Wyatt before his death from late-stage cancer that went undiagnosed until shortly before he died.
Ng made repeated requests for help, complained of excruciating back pain and could barely walk, according to attorneys from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Wyatt employees also refused to let Ng use a wheelchair and did not take him to scheduled diagnostic appointments as his condition worsened, the ACLU said.
The group has filed a motion to get Ng's medical documents from Wyatt so it can decide whether to sue the detention facility, Jack McConnell, an attorney working on the case for the ACLU, said Monday.
Wyatt officials said claims Ng did not get adequate medical care are "wholly without merit."
Facility administrators were baffled by the transfer of detainees.
"We don't know why this action was instituted. It has nothing to do with the quality or level of our service to our populations," Wyatt spokesman Dante Bellini said. "It's a bizarre decision in many respects."
Warden Wayne Salisbury Jr. referred all questions to Bellini.
The public-private facility generates millions of dollars for the city of Central Falls and the cash-strapped state of Rhode Island.
"We hope that this is a temporary action," Bellini said.