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Detained To Death

Late detainee Tiombe Carlos.

By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 15, 2013: As the family of Antigua & Barbuda immigrant, Tiombe Carlos, gets ready to lay her to rest this Friday, Nov. 15th, some 23 days after she was found unresponsive in a cell at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania where she was an immigrant detainee, questions continue to swirl around her exact cause of death.

Carlos was found unresponsive in her cell at at the York County Prison on Oct. 23rd and was rushed to the York Hospital where she was pronounced dead that evening.

The York County Coroner’s Office has said an autopsy it performed led them to rule her death as suicide by hanging.

But her family says they have yet to receive the autopsy report and the funeral home which is preparing the body for burial this Friday has said there was no scarring on Carlos’ neck.

This has led to calls for an independent investigation by an agency; autonomous of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), especially since there have been several deaths by immigrants in detention in 2013 alone.

Carlos, 35, and the mother of one, was in detention for nearly three years despite well-documented severe mental disability and repeated pleas for her release, according to rights group, Families for Freedom. An immigration judge had ordered Carlos to be deported back to Antigua on June 21, 2012, according to an ICE statement on October 23rd.

The FFF says Carlos was unjustly detained and requests for her release so she could access private medical and mental treatment were ignored.

Carlos was admitted to the United States in perfect mental and physical health as a lawful permanent resident 30 years ago, according to the FFF.
After being admitted to the United States, she acquired a psychotic disorder and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 15.

That diagnosis was apparently again verified by Physicians for Human Rights(PHR) in 2011, which recommended intense medical treatment and also suggested that Carlos be in the care of her family.

In 2012, she reportedly underwent a Forensic Psych Evaluation conducted by the Headquarters Post-Order Custody Review Unit as part of the process for designation as a 241.14 case (“Continued detention of removable persons on account of special circumstances”) that would have determined her continued detention.
The FFF said her attorney and family persistently called on ICE to release her, Carlos was kept in detention where she was repeatedly bullied by detention facility guards.

“We want to know if Ms. Carlos’ inadequate medical treatment and alleged guard abuse endured in ICE custody at the York County Prison were contributing factors to her death,” Families for Freedom said in a statement while calling for a report from ICE on York County Prison, investigating officer misconduct and treatment of detainees.

“Ms. Carlos’ case is emblematic of all that is wrong with mandatory detention and a detention system that does not recognize our humanity and our unique circumstances,” the group added. “We will continue to fight together with Ms. Carlos’ family in search of crucial answers.”
But an ICE spokesman told News Americas Wednesday that they have “initiated a comprehensive review of Ms. Carlos’ case and the circumstances surrounding her death but as a matter of policy, ICE will not be commenting on the specifics until this review is complete.”

He added: The “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring the safety of immigration detainees in its custody. As such, ICE is conducting a thorough assessment of the circumstances surrounding Ms. Carlos’ death, including sending a team of specialists to review the facility’s compliance with ICE standards and policies, with an emphasis on suicide prevention and intervention.

“In addition, ICE is undertaking a review of its policies and procedures related to the detention and removal of individuals with a history of mental health issues.”

Carlos, meanwhile, will be laid to rest following a funeral at the Francis Funeral Home at 1400 South 58th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 11 a.m. on Nov. 15th that will include attendance from Antiguan officials in New York, including Deputy Consul General, Omyma David.