Deaths of two men in Texas following ICE arrests draw attention to deadly nature of immigration enforcement

September 19, 2017

Advocates call for local officials to step up efforts to defend immigrants from deportations: “Stopping ICE is now a life and death matter for members of our community”

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Immigration advocates today responded with sadness and anger to news of the deaths of two men following apprehension by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, who was arrested in February during a controversial raid on an Austin courthouse and later deported, was violently killed in Mexico last week, according to a story in the Austin American-Statesman.  

Coronilla-Guerrero had been released from the Travis County Jail after bonding out, and after Sheriff Sally Hernandez refused to honor a constitutionally dubious ICE detainer to hold him for deportation.  Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife spoke out in March following his arrest, warning a federal judge that his deportation would result in him being killed.

“When I asked that they not deport him they did it knowing that I told them [government officials] that he couldn’t go back because they were going to kill him. Look, now he’s dead and nothing can be done, nothing can be remedied,” said Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife. “My son saw everything and now he is asking me for his dad and what can I tell him if I don’t have the words to say that he is dead? Now all of my family is in danger.”

Advocates have set up a YouCaring page to raise money for Coronilla-Guerrero’s family.

Coronilla-Guerrero’s arrest was part of a wave of immigration raids in Austin in February.  Despite ICE’s initial claim that the raids were part of “routine” operations, it was revealed in federal court that ICE had lied to local officials and the media and that the enforcement actions were in fact retaliation for Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy limiting ICE detainers in the jail.   

“Immigration raids have impacts on individuals and their families that are now often deadly,” said Bethany Carson, immigration organizer and researcher with Grassroots Leadership who had worked with Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife and testified at his court hearing subsequent to his deportation.  “The county policy refusing to honor most unconstitutional detainers only protects immigrants in our community if they cannot later be snatched from our courts and our streets. Stopping ICE is now a life and death matter. Our local elected leaders must do everything within their power to stop these deportations.”

Yet another death in immigrant detention

A second man, Felipe Almazan-Ruiz, died in an immigration detention center in Livingston, Texas on the morning September 17th.  Almazan-Ruiz had lived in the United States since 1985 and was transferred to the IAH Polk Detention Center in Livingston from Florida in the lead-up to Hurricane Irma. In 2012, Grassroots Leadership and the national Detention Watch Network warned of inadequate medical care and other dangerous conditions issues in a report following a tour of the facility.

Almazan-Ruiz died, according to ICE, from cardiac arrest after being admitted for treatment of cirrhosis of the liver.  He was transferred to Livingston Memorial hospital and then to the Conroe Regional Medical Center.  His death was the 12th in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, according to the agency.

“Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.  “Given the high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas, it is outrageous that the Trump administration is planning a massive new for-profit detention center down the road in Conroe.”  

Contact: 

Bethany Carson, bcarson@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111