Mexican man dies in ICE custody in Georgia

A 44-year-old Mexican man died at a hospital in Georgia Wednesday while in the custody of immigration authorities.
An employee waits at the front gate of the Stewart Detention Facility, a Corrections Corporation of America immigration facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, on April 13, 2009.
An employee waits at the front gate of the Stewart Detention Facility, a Corrections Corporation of America immigration facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, on April 13, 2009.Kate Brumback / AP file

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By Daniella Silva

A 44-year-old Mexican man died at a hospital in Georgia Wednesday while in the custody of immigration authorities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.

Pedro Arriago-Santoya was pronounced dead by medical staff at a hospital in Columbus, Georgia, Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement released by ICE.

His preliminary cause of death was identified as “cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to multi-organ system failure, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction and respiratory failure,” according to the statement.

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Arriago-Santoya was being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, at the time of his death, according to the statement. He had been in ICE custody since April 24 while his deportation proceedings were ongoing and he was ordered to be removed from the country by an immigration judge in June, the statement said.

On the afternoon of July 20, Arriago-Santoya complained to staff at the detention center that he had abdominal pain, according to the statement. ICE said he was seen by a nurse practitioner and sent that same day by ambulance to a local hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia.

The next day, he was transferred to a different hospital for surgery consultation “due to suspected gall bladder disease,” ICE said.

Arriago-Santoya went into cardiac arrest at that hospital on July 22 at 3:55 a.m., the statement said. Medical staff attempted to perform life-saving measures on Arriago-Santoya, restoring his pulse and oxygen levels before he was placed on a ventilator and taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit, the statement said. He was intubated, on mechanical ventilation and comatose, ICE said.

Later that afternoon, Arriago-Santoya went into cardiac-arrest again and was pronounced dead at 3:10 p.m., ICE said. The agency said it was reviewing the incident and that it contacted Mexican consular representatives, but they were unable to locate any next of kin for the man.

Arriago-Santoya was the seventh person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year. His death was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Last year, federal records obtained by radio station WABE and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting found problems at the Stuart facility, including staffing shortages, drug smuggling and other safety and health issues.