Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Yahoo News

Originally published by Yahoo News

Mythili Sampathkumar

A 58-year-old Indian citizen died while in custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Atlanta airport, becoming the eighth person to die in their custody in 2017.

Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel died of congestive heart failure at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta on 16 May, according to an ICE statement.

Mr Patel had arrived in the US on a flight from Quito, Ecuador and was detained on 10 May for allegedly missing proper immigration documents. The reason for Mr Patel’s travel has not yet been confirmed.

US immigration arrests surge 40% under Donald Trump

ICE is the domestic enforcement agency, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a separate federal agency and the authorities at ports of entry into the US.

CBP was the agency at the Atlanta airport that actually detained Mr Patel. Both agencies operate under the Department of Homeland Security.

There are over 60 reasons a foreign national trying to enter the US could be deemed “inadmissible” by US authorities, including, but not limited to, “health-related, prior criminal convictions, security reasons, public charge, labour certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds,” per immigration law.

There are times a traveller could spend time in a temporary holding facility with CBP until they are able to catch a flight back to their home country. However, a foreign national may not be able or willing to travel back to their home country due to a wide variety of reasons. In some cases, that is when they are transferred to ICE.

Due to privacy constraints, the reason for Mr Patel’s detention and transfer cannot be divulged by CBP or ICE.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox did confirm that Mr Patel was only transferred into ICE Custody 11 May, the day after his arrival at the Atlanta airport.

Once transferred to ICE, Mr Patel was then held in the Atlanta City Detention Center and received an initial medical screening and was identified to have high blood pressure and diabetes.

ICE requires all detainees to go through a medical screening within 12 hours of transfer into their custody, Mr Cox said.

After routine monitoring for his health issues, Mr Patel was transferred to hospital two days later on 13 May with shortness of breath. He remained in care there until his death on 16 May.

The Indian consulate has informed Mr Patel’s next of kin.

Though deaths in ICE custody are rare, the agency and CBP have been under extra scrutiny of late due to Donald Trump‘s ban on travellers from certain Muslim-majority countries entering the US.

What immigration paperwork CBP needs upon entry, what travellers’ rights are, and what ICE and CBP will enforce based on court orders created confusion in international airports all over the US as a result.

Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility have been alerted to the circumstances surrounding Mr Patel’s death as well.

There is no word as yet whether some sort of review of the tragic incident will take place or what, if any, action Indian authorities may take in the matter.

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