día de los muertos: remembering those who have died in ICE custody


The Detroit Institute of Art annual Ofrendas: Día de los Muertos exhibit opens today, September 28th and runs through November 10th. My wife (Eli B’Sheart Inlak’ech) and I created an ofrenda in remembrance of those who have died in the custody of ICE and CBP under the Trump administration. Our intention for the ofrenda is to honor the 28 adults and seven children who have passed, to remember their names and faces, and provide viewers with resources to support immigrants and asylum seekers in detention.

The exhibit is free with general admission, free for residents of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

Deaths at Adult Detention Centers under Trump administration (age, country of origin, date of death)

Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, 37 Mexico (September 19, 2019)

Pedro Arriago-Santova, 44 Mexico (July 25, 2019)

Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres, 30 Honduras (June 30, 2019)

Johana Medina Leon, 25 El Salvador (June 3, 2019) 

Simratpal Singh, 20 India (May 3, 2019)

Abel Reyes-Clemente, 54 Mexico (April 3, 2019)

Guerman Volkov, 56 Russia (November 30, 2018)

Mergensana Amar, 40 Russia (November 18, 2018)

Wilfredo Padron, 58 Cuba (November 1, 2018)

Augustina Ramirez-Arreola, 62 Mexico (July 25, 2018)

Efrain Romero De la Rosa, 40 Mexico (July 10, 2018)

Huy Chi Tran, 47 Vietnam (June 12, 2018)

Roxsana Hernandez, 33 Honduras (May 25, 2018)

Ronal Francisco Romero, 39 Honduras (May 16, 2018)

Gourgen Mirimanian, 54 Armenia (April 10, 2018)

Kamyar Samimi, 64 Iran (December 2, 2017)

Carlos Bonilla, 43 El Salvador (June 10, 2017)

Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46 Honduras (May 31, 2017)

Atulkumar Babubhai Patel, 59 India (May 16, 2017)

Jean Carlos Alfonso Jiminez-Joseph, 26 Panama (May 15, 2017)

Alonso Sergio Lopez, 55 Mexico (April 13, 2017)

Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, 32 Nicaragua (March 28, 2017)

Roger Rayson, 48 Jamaica (March 13, 2017) 

Deaths of Children in Custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (2018-2019)

Mariee Juarez, 19 months Guatemala

Juan de Leon Gutierrez, 16 Guatemala

Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8 Guatemala 

Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7 Guatemala

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, 16 Guatemala

Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, 2 Guatemala

Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, 10 El Salvador

‘the border’: no human being is illegal

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained more than 52,500 immigrants and asylum seekers. Immigrants held by ICE are civil detainees, not criminal, and their detention should not be punitive. Yet the Department of Homeland Security investigation reported ‘egregious violations’ at the detention centers it inspected, including nooses in detainee cells, inadequate medical care, rotten food and other conditions that endangered detainee health. “ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains. The Trump administration’s efforts to drastically expand the already-bloated immigration detention system will only put more people at risk,” said Clara Long, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

As of September 2019, at least 28 adults have died in immigration detention during the Trump administration. Many of these deaths were likely preventable. Human Rights Watch requested an independent medical analysis of 15 recent deaths; in eight cases, subpar medical care contributed or led to the fatalities. The top complaint reported by people in immigration detention is medical neglect. Employees of the Department of Human Services and ICE reported concerns about lapses in medical oversight and neglect that put immigrants at risk of harm or death, according to interviews and internal documents.

Since 2018, at least seven children have died while in custody of ICE or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP holding facilities are referred to as "hieleras," which translates to freezer, because of their frigid temperatures. A Human Rights Watch report about these conditions revealed that children were sleeping on cots under thin Mylar blankets or foil wrappers. The evidence is clear: no detention center is safe and healthy for children. Dr. Julie Linton, of the American Academy of Pediatrics explains, “Children are not like adults. They get sick more quickly and each hour of delay can be associated with serious complications, especially in cases of infectious diseases. Delays can lead to death.” The isolated conditions and separation from family can lead to significant trauma for children held in detention.

Queer and trans migrants are also particularly vulnerable, suffering disproportionate rates of physical and sexual abuse behind bars and often being forced into solitary confinement. Some flee persecution in their home countries only to experience discrimination and trauma upon arrival.

According to government data, 60% of detainees are held in privately-run immigrant prisons. The for-profit GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America/CoreCivic together detain about 15,000 people per day.  Our taxpayer dollars are paying for these detention centers, and ICE facilities under the Department of Homeland Security. “To the extent that Congress continues to fund this system, they are complicit in its abuses,” said Heidi Altman, policy director at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Congress should immediately act to decrease rather than expand detention and demand robust health, safety, and human rights standards in immigration detention.” 

Support Asylum Seekers & Immigrants in Detention

Al Otro Lado alotrolado.org 

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project asylumadvocacy.org/

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee dmscelpaso.wixsite.com/dmscelpaso

Familia TQLM familiatqlm.org/

Families Belong Together webelongtogetherkids.org/

Immigrant Families Together immigrantfamiliestogether.com/

International Refugee Assistance Program refugeerights.org

National Immigrant Justice Center immigrantjustice.org/

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) raicestexas.org/










Photo credit and exhibit text by Diana Quinn Inlak’ech and Eli B’Sheart Inlak’ech