Today in Atlanta: Silent Vigil to mark Anniversary of Roberto Martinez Medina’s Death
Newly obtained records show lack of transparency in ICE’s investigation and inconsistency in ICE’s account pertaining to Roberto Martinez Medina’s death
Vigil marks second in the Dignity Not Detention Campaign
Atlanta, Georgia – A silent vigil at 3:00 p.m. March 11 in front of the ICE office in Atlanta at 180 Spring Street S.W. marks the 1-year anniversary of the death of Roberto Martinez Medina who was detained in ICE custody at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. Mr. Medina, aged 39, was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle which is usually caused by a viral infection and normally treatable, according to records of the St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The records also noted that Mr. Medina had experienced symptoms three days before being rushed to the hospital on March 10, 2009, when his condition rapidly deteriorated.
“Roberto Martinez Medina and I would be the same age if he were still alive today,” reflected Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch on the passing of a 39-year-old immigrant from Mexico.
“One year has passed since the death of Roberto Martinez Medina and ICE has yet to set the record straight,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, the ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director. “The question still remains: Why did Roberto Martinez Medina die of a treatable heart infection?”
Newly Obtained Information Reveals ICE Investigation into Martinez’ Death not Transparent
New records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union from ICE related to the death of Roberto Martinez Medina highlight the lack of transparency in the ICE investigation. The investigation into Mr. Medina’s death was apparently referred to ICE’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; however, the results of that investigation are unclear. An on-site review of Medina’s death by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility was apparently scheduled for April 6, 2009; yet there is no indication that this review actually took place.
Records show many inconsistencies in the accounts by ICE’s representative, the hospital records, and a report by the Division of Immigration Health Services about when Mr. Martinez started complaining of chest pain and other ailments. The most perplexing disconnect in these accounts is the acknowledgment by Assistant Field Office Director for ICE Detention and Removal Operations, Michael Webster, to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last year that Mr. Medina had experienced chest pain for three days prior to his death, even though Webster reported that Medina “did not voice the complaint.” Newly-obtained records point to a report by the Division of Immigration Health Services stating that Mr. Martinez Medina ran a fever for three days before March 10, 2009. This is in contrast to the official ICE narrative obtained through the ACLU Freedom of Information Act request which states that Mr. Martinez Medina did not complain of chest pain or other ailments prior to March 10, 2009.
Records Reveal that Roberto Martinez Medina Complained of Health Problems Possibly Related to Lapses in Hygiene Standards
The newly-obtained documents also indicate that Medina made sick calls prior to March 10, 2009 for itchy eyes and foot fungus. These complaints are consistent with the information Georgia Detention Watch members obtained through interviews with detainees at the Stewart Detention Center where many complained of infections and rashes.
In April 2009, Georgia Detention Watch released a report on detention conditions at the Stewart Detention Center that pointed out the poor medical treatment given to detainees as well as hygiene standards. The report was based on interviews with sixteen detainees during a humanitarian visitation in December 2008. Using Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Performance-Based National Detention Standards to gauge conditions at Stewart, the report made specific recommendations in several areas, including medical care standards, food services standards, disciplinary system standards, personal hygiene standards, and staff training.
In spite of several requests by members of Georgia Detention Watch and partner organizations to meet with ICE to discuss the findings of the report, ICE has yet to respond.
Immigration Detention Centers in Georgia
Georgia has three immigration detention centers, including two which are run by the Corrections Corporations of America, the country’s largest private prison corporation. With a capacity of 1700+, the Stewart Detention Center based in rural southwest Georgia is the largest corporate-run immigration detention center in the country.
The recently opened North Georgia Detention Center also operated by CCA is located in Gainesville and has a capacity of 500.
Silent Vigil for Dignity Not Detention
The silent vigil sponsored by Georgia Detention Watch remembers the death of Roberto Martinez Medina, as well as the more than 100 other detainees who have perished in ICE custody since October 2003, and stresses the focus of another vigil held two weeks ago in Gainesville, Georgia where more than 50 people congregated to protest the recently opened North Georgia Detention Center and to join in the national launch the campaign: Dignity Not Detention: Preserving Human Rights and Restoring Justice.
Through taking part in the campaign, Georgia Detention Watch and partner organizations call for an end to contracts with the Corrections Corporation of America for the operation of the North Georgia Detention Center and the Stewart Detention Center due to CCA’s deadly track record and lack of adherence to ICE’s own standards. Georgia Detention Watch also calls on the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to:
- Institute binding standards for treatment of immigrant detainees that correspond to international human rights norms.
- Utilize community-based and humane alternatives to detention.
- End detainee transfers away from loved ones and communities of support.
- End local enforcement programs that are contributing to the growth of the immigration detention system.
Georgia Detention Watch is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state. Our coalition includes activists, community organizers, persons of faith, lawyers, and many more.
Member organizations of Georgia Detention Watch include: the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, American Immigration Lawyers Association Atlanta Chapter, Amnesty International-Southern Region, Amnesty International -Atlanta local group 75, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE), Coalición De Líderes Latinos (CLILA), Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, Immigrant Justice Project- Southern Poverty Law Center, International Action Center, Open Door Community, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), and others.3/1