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USC Study Identifies System-Wide Failures Related To Deaths in ICE Facilities

The University of Southern California’s Medical Center recently released a study identifying system-wide failures related to deaths in ICE detention centers. The study comes on the heels of an initial report in July showing ICE violated its own medical standards in 55 deaths from 2011 to 2018.  

Co-author Parveen Parmar says the new study reveals patterns that show the system is not designed to protect individuals from dying of illness or by suicide. The study identifies three major themes: “Detainee Not Patient, System Over Patient, and Grossly Substandard Care” and includes 11 subthemes. 

“There are instances of bias and discrimination and falsification of records and local indifference,” she says. 

People currently and formerly detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility say they aren’t surprised. During the pandemic, Donovan Grant led hunger strikes at the facility for better sanitary conditions. 


“My experience with COVID in the facility was like a deathtrap,” he says. A judge ordered a temporary restraining order against the facility citing that staff had intentionally avoided providing COVID-19 tests to individuals.

Furthermore, Parmar says the death cases they’ve reviewed for 2020 and 2021 show ICE’s medical practices haven’t changed. 

“It was definitely concerning to see that these are issues that, you know, were recurrent during this decade, and really are still persistent today,” she says. 

She says the Department of Homeland Security should require independent oversight of ICE Processing Facilities to prevent further deaths. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.
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