Fourth immigrant dies in Georgia detention center

By Arielle Robinson
August 4, 2019

Pedro Arriago-Santoya died July 24 while detained in a South Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. Arriago-Santoya was 44 years old and from Mexico. His cause of death was listed as heart infection and multiple organ failure.

Arriago-Santoya is the fourth migrant since 2017 to die while detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.

About two hours south of Atlanta, Stewart Detention Center is recognized among Georgia organizers for its mistreatment and medical neglect of immigrant detainees.

In 2017, a Panamanian migrant named Jean Jiménez-Joseph hanged himself there after being placed in solitary confinement. Last year, a Mexican detainee named Efrain De La Rosa also hung himself there after being placed in solitary confinement.

In the cases of Jiménez-Joseph and De La Rosa, both of whom struggled with schizophrenia and were on “suicide watch” in the facility, employees at Stewart failed to monitor both men as often as they were mandated to.

Federal guidelines say that immigrants in solitary confinement are supposed to be observed every 30 minutes. Inmates who are suicidal should be watched every 15 minutes. Stewart employees did not look into De La Rosa’s cell until two hours had passed before finding his body.

Cuban detainee Yulio Castro Garrido died of pneumonia in 2018 inside Stewart. After his death, ICE claimed that Garrido refused medical treatment. Weeks later, ICE changed its original statement, claiming that Garrido did not respond well to medical treatments.

In addition to inadequate health care, detainees in the center also report maggots in the food, sweltering hot temperatures and difficulty obtaining translators.

Phones used to communicate with lawyers often break, so detainees are left with little to no legal assistance at times. Lawyers, who are forced to travel hours from Atlanta to the isolated facility, are sometimes denied access to their clients.

Immigrants rights groups are calling for the closure of Stewart Detention Center, a facility they consider complicit in the active oppression and deaths of im/migrants.