Home World An asylum-seeker died in immigration custody. His household needs solutions.

An asylum-seeker died in immigration custody. His household needs solutions.


Greater than 2½ months after an asylum-seeker from Nicaragua died in immigration custody, his household say they’ve extra questions than solutions in regards to the circumstances surrounding his dying. He had filed grievances alleging bodily mistreatment by the ability’s employees and had additionally repeatedly complained to his household.  

Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra, 42, died June 23 after having spent over a yr within the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Middle in Jena, Louisiana, as he waited for his immigration case to be reviewed.

An ICE panel had beneficial him for launch in November, however officers on the detention middle declined to launch him, in keeping with attorneys and immigrant advocacy teams, NBC Information reported in June.

Glenda Pérez and her fiancée, Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra. Courtesy Glenda Perez

Notes from ICE’s medical data the household offered to NBC Information point out Rocha-Cuadra was discovered unresponsive, sitting in a chair. He was positioned on oxygen and given naloxone, a medicine used to reverse the results of opioids. The drug is usually administered in emergency conditions when persons are unresponsive, no matter whether or not they have used medication. His brother stated the coroner instructed him that an preliminary drug take a look at was damaging.

As soon as Rocha-Cuadra turned responsive, he was taken to the emergency room at LaSalle Normal Hospital and arrived in “steady situation.” Shortly after, he misplaced consciousness, went into respiratory arrest after which cardiac arrest, which ICE listed because the preliminary reason for dying. Resuscitation makes an attempt failed and he was declared useless at 2:59 p.m., in keeping with the notes.

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Rocha-Cuadra’s household, who’ve been dwelling within the Los Angeles space for over 30 years, stated it took three days for them to search out out he had died.

The ICE facility in Jena, La., on Aug. 9, 2019.
The ICE facility in Jena, La., in 2019.Melinda Martinez through USA TODAY Community

Based on the household’s account, the day after Rocha-Cuadra died, one among his brothers, Frank Rocha-Cuadra, acquired a name from a detainee who was anxious that Ernesto had not returned to detention and needed to know whether or not the household knew how he was doing. Not conscious that something had occurred, the household started calling the detention middle however saved getting a recorded message till they bought by on June 26, a Monday.

“I bought transferred to somebody and after I gave him my brother’s data, he stated: ‘Let me pray for the household. I’m so sorry,’” stated Frank. “So proper then and there he instructed me that my brother had handed away.”

It wasn’t till 4 p.m. that day that ICE referred to as his mom notifying them of Ernesto’s dying, Frank Rocha-Cuadra stated.

Allegations and questions

Based on the ICE medical data offered by the household and a extra condensed model of his document ICE despatched to NBC Information, Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra had been bodily tortured by authorities in Nicaragua over a four-month interval in 2020. He was on medicine for melancholy and anxiousness, and there was documentation of a right-hand fracture and a historical past of points along with his hand and wrist.

Members of the family and his fiancée stated Rocha-Cuadra had complained to them of being mistreated since he arrived on the ICE processing middle, which is owned by a personal jail agency, the GEO Group. The corporate runs the day-to-day operations whereas ICE is chargeable for medical companies. 

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Rocha-Cuadra filed quite a few grievances with ICE whereas in detention making allegations of abuse. The grievances turned a part of a habeas corpus movement he filed, which permits detained people to go earlier than a decide to problem their detention. NBC Information obtained the habeas corpus petition from Homero López, govt director of Immigration Companies and Authorized Advocacy [ISLA] in New Orleans who was representing Rocha-Cuadra on the time.

In a single grievance filed on Sept. 2, 2022, Rocha-Cuadra described being in “EXCRUTIATING ache” and alleged that the detention middle’s medical middle referred to as an ambulance however the GEO employees “refused” and stated they’d take him themselves of their automobile. “NEXT THING I REMEMBER WAS WAS COMING WAKEING UP WHEN THEY THREW ME IN THE SUV AND ME HITTING MY HEAD AND THEY THREW ME IN SHACKLED FROM HEAD TO TOE ON MY BACK AS THE CAMERA WILL SHOW VOMITING AND CHOKING ON MY SELF .. THINK I WAS GOING TO DIE.”

Based on the petition, in one other grievance filed the identical day, Sept. 2, 2022, Rocha-Cuadra acknowledged {that a} sergeant and a lieutenant went to his pod and began recording with their telephones. He requested to be moved to a different cell or that they shut the flap between him and his neighbor; in earlier grievances he had complained that his neighbor was throwing urine and feces at him by the flap. “They got here in with riot gear and attacked me,” he wrote within the Sept. 2 grievance. He stated they used extreme pressure that resulted in bruising throughout his physique. Based on the petition, on that very same day he filed a grievance saying an inmate assaulted him seven instances in entrance of GEO employees.

He additionally complained about being left in solitary confinement for extended intervals of time, in keeping with the petition. 

ICE declined to touch upon Rocha-Cuadra’s grievances towards the ability.

The GEO Group stated it can not touch upon particular circumstances relating to people in ICE custody, together with grievances.

Ernesto Rocha Cuadra and Glenda Perez in Mexico on their way to the United States in March 2022.
Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra and Glenda Pérez in Mexico on their solution to the U.S. in March 2022.Courtesy Glenda Perez

Glenda Pérez, Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra’s fiancée, stated that over the last couple of weeks earlier than his dying, issues didn’t appear fairly proper. His cellphone calls went from half-hour to 3 minutes the final two weeks he was alive. On their final video name, she and Rocha-Cuadra’s mom stated they noticed he had a forged on his arm that went as much as his underarm, although that’s not within the medical data despatched to NBC Information.

Members of the family stated that after they considered his physique, he had bruises round his face. Pérez stated that when she acquired Rocha-Cuadra’s belongings, there was blood on a T-shirt.

His household insist they need to know extra about what befell inside the ability within the days and moments earlier than he died on the hospital. 

The post-mortem report shouldn’t be but full, however Frank Rocha-Cuadra stated the coroner instructed him a drug take a look at was damaging. The household filed Freedom of Data Act requests for data from ICE, like digicam footage from inside the ability and a listing of grievances that Rocha-Cuadra had filed on the facility relating to his therapy there. 

ICE denied all of the data requests, citing an open investigation, in keeping with Jeremy Jong, a employees legal professional with Al Otro Lado, an immigrant authorized advocacy group. The household has appealed the choice, arguing that it isn’t the kind of investigation that might enable immigration officers to withhold data. The appeals are pending.  

A life within the U.S. — after which a return

Rocha-Cuadra spent most of his life within the U.S. He got here as a younger boy within the Nineteen Eighties and have become a authorized everlasting resident when he was 11 years outdated. He and his household settled within the Los Angeles space, the place he grew up.

“He was all the time looking for me,” his mom, Martha Rocha-Cuadra, stated. “He even translated for me throughout medical appointments.”

After some run-ins with the regulation, together with convictions for marijuana possession, second-degree housebreaking and driving beneath the affect, Rocha-Cuadra was deported to Nicaragua in 2009.

He settled within the capital, Managua, the place he labored at name facilities for American corporations. He met Pérez, who owned an upholstery enterprise, and the 2 began a 13-year relationship.

In 2018, as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega grew extra authoritarian, the couple took half in nationwide avenue protests that rapidly turned violent. In addition they participated in smaller subsequent protests, and Pérez stated Rocha-Cuadra was briefly detained by authorities. In 2022, she stated, there was an order for Rocha-Cuadra’s arrest in Nicaragua, and that’s when the couple determined to journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, a two-month ordeal, and search asylum within the U.S.

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