NarcoNews-DHS Investigating Death of Detained Honduran Immigrant

Individual Allegedly Denied Access to Medication & Kept for Days in Frigid, Overcrowded Border Patrol Cell Designed to Hold Detainees for 12 Hours

By Bill Conroy

Honduran national Lelis Rodriguez, 50, died on July 31 of a cerebral hemorrhage at a hospital in Harlingen, a small town on the Texas border.

At the time, he was in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to an ICE press release. He was apprehended crossing the border in Hidalgo, Texas, on July 16 and transferred to ICE custody on July 22, the press release notes. Rodriguez suffered a massive stroke a week later, on July 29, and was rushed to the Valley Baptist Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead two days later.

The South Texas media dutifully reported his death in short clips that parroted the ICE press release. But no one questioned the missing six days — the time between Rodriguez apprehension at the border and his transfer to ICE custody.

Those missing six days, however, open a door to a dark secret of the US immigration system that has long been suppressed. This nation, in its zeal to seal its borders and get tough on those deemed to be trespassing on America’s manifest destiny, has created an immigrant detention system that treats human beings (men, women and children) like cattle — locking them away in massively overcrowded holding cells where they are forced to exist for days, even weeks, in squalid, frigid conditions without access to showers, clothing, beds, adequate food or medical care.

For Lelis Rodriguez, it appears that system proved to be fatal.

The missing six days in his life matter, given US Border Patrol, which is part of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), does not have facilities designed for incarcerating individuals for longer than 12 hours. CBP “hold rooms,” as they are called, have “no beds; a hold room is not designed for sleeping,” states the CBP Security Policy and Procedures Handbook.

In the case of Rodriguez, Narco News sources confirm that he was, in fact, apprehended by Border Patrol agents in Texas and held at the agency’s Weslaco Station for three days (July 16-18), then transferred to the Harlingen Station for another three days (July 19-21). The two Texas Border Patrol stations are designed to hold about 300 detainees each for processing, but, sources contend, while Rodriguez was incarcerated, the holding areas were jam packed with up to three times that many people, some of whom had been incarcerated for as long as 20 days — and many, like Rodriguez, were moved every several days from one Border Patrol station to another.

In addition, source tell Narco News, there were close to 200 children, ranging in age from less than one year old to 17, who were in custody at the Weslaco and Harlingen Border Patrol stations during the period Rodriquez was detained there, including one 3-year-old who was kept in a holding cell for at least a week.

After being detained by Border Patrol for six days — in a holding area designed for a stay of 12 hours — Rodriguez was turned over to ICE, which housed him at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas. Private prison company LCS Corrections Services Inc. owns and operates the Brooks facility and houses detainees for ICE as well as other federal agencies, such as the US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.

Rodriguez on July 29 was transferred to a deportation staging center in Port Isabel, Texas, where he collapsed after the blood vessels in his brain essentially exploded. He was rushed to a hospital and died two days later. Rodriguez had high blood pressure and was on hypertension medicine for the condition — medicine he had with him when Border Patrol apprehended him, sources allege.

Despite this fact, and despite asking for his medication, which sources insist was in the possession of both Border Patrol and later officials at Brooks after he was transferred there, Rodriguez was not given his medication.

DHS Investigation

The details matter in this case because Rodriguez’ treatment while detained in the US was a major factor in his death, it appears. In fact, Carol Barahona, a Honduran Consulate agent in Houston, confirms that US authorities are now investigating Rodriguez’ death.

“This case is being investigated by DHS [the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of both ICE and CBP],” Barahona told Narco News. “This is a very sensitive case, and we want to give a response to the family [provide answers], and it is important to all the people of Honduras to assure people are [treated properly] when in [US] detention centers.”

Narco News earlier this week contacted officials with Border Patrol, ICE and the Brooks County Detention Center seeking comment for this story

Read the entire investigative report here at NarcoNews: Click Here

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