Rights groups speak out after suicide of asylum-seeker at Louisiana ICE jail

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS – Immigration rights activists are speaking out after the suicide of a Cuban asylum-seeker who was being held in solitary confinement in a Louisiana immigration jail.

Forty-three-year-old Roylan Hernández Diáz killed himself on October 15 at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe while in solitary confinement, according to reports from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The use of solitary confinement is especially troubling in this situation, according to the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

“Fostering hopelessness is an intentional tactic of an administration bent on terrorizing immigrant communities,” Chloe Sigal, Congreso de Jornaleros Lead Organizer at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice said. “This is why the New Orleans ICE Field Office has eliminated the use of parole in favor of indefinite detention, it’s why medical and mental health services are all but nonexistent and it’s why the use of solitary confinement is rampant. This is a lethal combination and it cost Hernández Diáz his life.”

The ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement saying asylum-seekers have no business ending up in solitary.

“Roylan Hernandez-Diaz’s death in solitary confinement is a horrific and preventable tragedy that demands a thorough investigation and immediate changes to the conditions in ICE detention facilities,” ACLU of Louisiana executive director Alanah Odoms Hebert said. “Solitary confinement is torture and should never – under any circumstances – be used against asylum-seekers engaging in peaceful protest. We will not stand by while ICE tortures people who are exercising their right to seek asylum in the United States. In addition to undertaking an independent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Hernandez-Diaz’s death, detention facilities in Louisiana must immediately suspend the use of solitary confinement and take additional steps to ensure the safety of those in their custody. Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Hernandez-Diaz’s family and loved-ones as we continue to demand justice for his unnecessary and tragic death.”

The ACLU of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center recently won a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging the Department of Homeland Security and ICE’s illegal practice of denying parole to detained asylum-seekers.

“ICE completely disregards the well-being and dignity of people in their custody,” Detention Watch Network Organizing Director Bárbara Suárez Galeano said. “Immigration detention is fatal — funding must be cut to the deadly agency as a step towards abolishing the system in its entirety.”

The death of Hernández Diáz is the second in a year at ICE detention centers.

Amar Mergansana committed suicide in solitary confinement in a Tacoma, Washington, ICE jail after an 83-day hunger strike last November.

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