An Indian national died of congestive heart failure May 17 in Atlanta, Georgia, six days after he was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to ICE officials, Atulkumar Babubhai Patel arrived at the Atlanta Airport May 10 on a flight from Quito, Ecuador, without requisite immigration documents. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told India-West that Patel was detained for at least 12 hours by Customs and Border Patrol, before he was turned over to ICE, which placed him at the Atlanta City Detention Center on May 11.
“He went through passport control, where the CBP deemed him inadmissible to enter the country,” said Cox, noting that Patel was detained at the airport for at least 12 hours under unknown conditions.
Cox said that everyone who comes into an ICE facility receives a mandated medical examination within 12 hours. A medical practitioner who examined Patel noted that the 58-year-old man had high blood pressure and diabetes.
On May 13, a nurse monitoring Patel noticed he had shortness of breath; he was then transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital for additional evaluation and care.
Patel died at the hospital.
Asked whether Patel had received special meals for his high blood sugar while detained at ACDC, Cox said he did not know, but added that a variety of special meals – including halal and kosher – are available if medical personnel recommend them.
Cox also said he did not know if Patel spoke sufficient English to make a request for accommodation of special meals necessary for his dietary requirements.
The ICE spokesman noted that throughout the U.S., only eight deaths were recorded for detainees in ICE custody during the fiscal year 2016, which began last October and will end this September. The overall detainee population for the year was 352,000, according to Cox.
ICE informed the Indian Consulate in Atlanta, as well as Patel’s family in India. The Indian Consulate had not returned an e-mail to India-West by press time.
Cox said Patel’s death will be investigated by ICE, and may also be investigated by state and local authorities.
A statement from the agency noted: “ICE is committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases.”
“Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the rate of the U.S. detained population as a whole,” noted ICE, noting that an investigation will be conducted by senior leadership.
Patel is the second person to die at a Georgia ICE facility in a span of two days. The agency is also investigating the alleged suicide of Jean Jimenez-Joseph, 27, who was found unresponsive in his cell May 14 with a sheet around his neck. The preliminary cause of death was self-inflicted strangulation.
Jimenez-Joseph had been in solitary confinement for more than two weeks at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.