At least 22 immigrants have died in the custody of US immigration enforcement since President Donald Trump took office, including some individuals who had been longtime legal residents of the United States from all over the country.
That’s according to a new analysis from NBC News, which found that the deaths in American detention centres included individuals from far-away places like Vietnam, or from countries a bit closer to home like Mexico.
The analysis follows less than a month after two high profile deaths of immigrants in US custody, both children under the age of 10.
“One death is too many”, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said last month during congressional testimony after the death of the first child.
The 22 deaths include at least one transgender woman, Roxana Hernandez, who died within two weeks of being taken into US custody. Hernandez had travelled from Honduras to the US-Mexico border, where she sought asylum.
The deaths appear to highlight shortcomings in the American immigration detention system, which has been cited in at least three Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General reports as having poor treatment and lax oversight.
But Ms Nielsen said during her testimony that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centres have “some of the highest standards in the world”.
The 22 deaths in the past two years are among the 188 detainee deaths in ICE custody since 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security was formed.
Since becoming president, Mr Trump has overseen a shift in America’s approach to immigration enforcement that has been criticised by some for eliminating discretion from the process. The policies pushed forward by the Trump administration has included practices of separating families at the US border, even those seeking asylum in the US.
The Trump administration has also seen an uptick in the number of non-criminal undocumented immigrants being targeted by US immigration services, even though deportation levels have dropped compared to the rate seen during the Obama administration.
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