ICE knew he was sick. They let him die. Now, his family’s suing.


Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, talks with Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at left, on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Bacterial meningitis isn’t a subtle affliction. When it gets to be fatal, the symptoms are pronounced: In the days before death, a sufferer is certain to have extreme pain. They’d be visibly sick, disoriented, confused and non-responsive with fever, dehydration and vomiting, potentially.

According to Georgia’s medical examiner, it’s certain that Ronal Francisco Romero exhibited just such symptoms during his six days of detention following his May 9 arrest for attempting to enter the country without documentation. His meningitis started as an ear infection and spread to his brain. Yet, ICE officials didn’t take him to the hospital until his disease had progressed too far to treat: He had less than 24 hours to live.

At least 27 people have died in ICE custody since 2015. Hundreds or thousands of others have suffered as a result of substandard health care in the system.

Romero’s mother has filed a wrongful death suit. DHS and ICE are aware, as is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. Now it’s a race against time to find people who were detained along with her son.

The suit’s a bold, and important, move: It’s a vehicle for, at a minimum, raising awareness of inhuman and illegal practices by ICE officials. If his mother prevails, the suit will hopefully bring Romero’s family some measure of peace and deter these extreme forms of neglect in the future. 


USA News


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