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17th immigrant dies in ICE custody, twice as many as last fiscal year

Seventeen immigrants have died in ICE custody this fiscal year, more than twice as many as the eight that died last year.
Image: ICE
ICE and Homeland Security Investigations officers execute search warrants on Aug. 7, 2019.US Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AFP - Getty Images

More than twice as many immigrants have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs and Enforcement this fiscal year than last after two detainees died this week. That brought this year's total to 17, compared with eight deaths last year.

A 72-year-old Canadian man who had tested positive for the coronavirus died in ICE custody on Wednesday night at a Virginia hospital, the agency said Friday in a statement.

James Thomas Hill reported feeling shortness of breath to staff at an ICE detention facility in Farmville, Virginia, on July 10 and was admitted to Centra Southside Community Hospital before being transferred to Lynchburg General Hospital the following day, ICE said.

A COVID-19 test administered by hospital staff came back positive on July 11, the agency said.

Hill entered ICE custody on April 11 following his release from the Rivers Federal Correctional Institute in North Carolina after serving 13 years of a 26-year prison sentence for health care fraud and distributing a controlled substance, according to ICE. An immigration judge had ordered his removal on May 12, ICE said. At the time of his death, Hill was in ICE custody pending his removal to Canada, the agency said.

The agency said it had notified the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, the Canadian consulate and Hill’s next of kin. His death was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

A 51-year-old Taiwanese man died Wednesday afternoon at a Florida hospital after being a diagnosed with a "massive intercranial hemorrhage," ICE said in a separate statement Thursday.

Kuan Hui Lee was found unresponsive at the Krome Service Processing Center in Florida on July 31 and taken to the Kendall Regional Medical Center.

Lee was arrested by Border Patrol in January after legally entering the U.S. in 2004 and overstaying his temporary visa.

ICE said it was committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and was undertaking a comprehensive, agency-wide review of Lee's death.

The agency said it had notified the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the Taiwan consulate.

Immigration centers, like other detention centers throughout the U.S., have reported outbreaks of the coronavirus. There have been more than 4,200 confirmed coronavirus cases in ICE custody since the agency began testing in February with four deaths, according to agency data. There were currently 911 positive coronavirus cases in ICE custody as of Thursday, according to the agency.