U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting the Department of Justice launch a public investigation into allegations of abuse and two recent deaths at the Eloy Detention Center.
About 200 detainees started a hunger strike over the weekend
, after finding out inmate José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún, a native of Mexico, had died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. ICE runs the for-profit detention center outside of Phoenix.
Detainees say they witnessed guards beat Deniz-Sahagún and then put him in solitary confinement before his death, but ICE alleges he was found unresponsive with no obvious signs of injuries. It was reported that a second man also died, likely after similar events, the detainees allege.
“I am alarmed at reports that not one, but two detainees have died while in custody at Eloy Detention Center. The fact that some this information is seeping out of the seams, as opposed to being reported and addressed outright, only furthers the concerns. We are not learning of these abuses—and one case, not learning of the death at all—through official channels. We are only hearing from the detainees inside," Grijalva said in a statement.
“Eloy Detention Center is in the business of detaining people for profit, but that does not exempt them from upholding the law. Where transgressions occur, accountability must follow. Attorney General Lynch is a stalwart advocate for justice, and I am confident that her department will get to the bottom of this in an open and accessible way," he added.
This year, ICE has confirmed the death of four detainees while in their custody, according to the agency.
Here's Grijalva's letter to Lynch:
The Loretta E. Lynch
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Lynch:
I write to express my serious concerns about the recent death of José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún, a Mexican national who died in custody at Eloy Detention Center, located outside of Phoenix, Arizona last month. Detainees held at this facility report Deniz-Sahagún being beaten by guards and imprisoned in solidarity confinement prior to his death. Various news articles also indicate that a second man, whose identity remains unknown, was tazed by detention center guards despite significant medical problems, which resulted in his death.
I respectfully request that the Department Of Justice conduct an open and thorough investigation into the death of José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún and the second man whose identity remains unknown. As the Eloy Detention Center is privately run, for-profit facility contracted by the Department of Homeland Security, it is essential that this investigation be transparent and open to the. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and attention to this request. If you have further questions please contact Norma Salazar in my office at Norma.Salazar@mail.house.gov or (202)225-2435.
Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress