sobs as she recalls how her HIV-positive daughter spent two
months succumbing to infections in a U.S. migrant detention
center, complaining that she didn't see a doctor or
get the right medicine.
also begged for help after Victoria Arellano started
vomiting blood in their holding cell, where her lawyer said
105 detainees were crammed onto bunks and mattresses
in a space designed for 40.
She died three
days later, chained to a hospital bed.
The death of the
23-year-old transgender Mexican immigrant is at the
forefront of discussions at this week's international AIDS
conference in Mexico City. Rights activists say it
shows the failure of immigration officials to deal
humanely with HIV-positive inmates among the 30,000
migrants held in detention centers across the United States.
City-based Human Rights Watch surveyed detention
center officials and inmates after Arellano's death
and found 14 cases in which it said HIV-infected
immigrants were not given proper care while in custody
of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
details of the allegations by the Arellano family and the
rights group, ICE spokesman Brandon A. Alvarez-Montgomery
told the Associated Press that he couldn't
comment since Arellano is suing the agency. When Human
Rights Watch first presented its report in December,
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said ''ensuring the welfare
and safety of those in our custody is one of our top
many HIV-infected migrants in U.S. detention centers are
not given their medicine regularly, which is crucial to
their survival. People with HIV can live otherwise
healthy lives if they take a strict regimen of
specific medications each day and closely monitor their
blood cells to be sure their immune systems are
to do for people being deported, particularly in
overcrowded detention centers. When the regimen is
interrupted, the virus rebounds and the immune system
lawyer, Steven Archer, says Arellano never got proper
medical attention after she was stopped for drunk driving
and handed over to immigration officials in June 2007.
''They never gave
her any of the proper medications for her AIDS
diagnosis. They did give her a prescription for a urinary
tract infection, but even then, they filled her
prescription with the wrong strength, and they never
diagnosed the meningitis, even though she had been
complaining about headaches, sweats, and generalized pain
for weeks. That is what killed her in the end,''
Archer said. ''It was so advanced that it involved her
brain, her liver, her lungs, her heart, and a couple
of other organs. She died in terrible pain.''
ICE spends nearly
$100 million annually on medical services for its
detainees, including dental, chronic, and mental health
care. A June 11 report on deaths in ICE custody by the
Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog found
that ICE's overall standards have equaled those of
other detention agencies.
Since ICE was
formed in 2003, 71 people out of 1.5 million have died in
the agency's custody. Officials also note that such deaths
have declined to seven last year even as the detainee
population grew. But the watchdog report recommended
that the ICE do more to improve oversight and
screening procedures and to fill clinical staff shortages at
Watch says detention centers do not collect essential
information to monitor HIV cases. It also accuses ICE of
failing to complete antiretroviral regimens
consistently, failing to prescribe prophylactic
medications to prevent infections and failing to ensure
continuity of care when HIV-infected detainees transfer
HIV-positive Mexicans complain that they don't get proper
care until after they are deported.
Serrato, 43, was deported in May after living 24 years in
California. He said he told U.S. immigration officials when
he was detained that he is HIV-positive. ''I told them
I needed my medicine, but they didn't give me
anything,'' he said.
the AP at a shelter in Tijuana, he said he missed out on
nearly a week of taking the drugs he needs to keep his
immune system from weakening, until his mother brought
medication to the shelter in Mexico.
Arellano's case, her mother was powerless to help.
''She told me
after a month in detention that she still hadn't seen a
doctor,'' Arellano said. ''I told her I could send her more
medicine, but she said they would not give it to her.
They were mostly giving her Tylenol.''
Other inmates at
the San Pedro facility outside Los Angeles yelled
''Hospital! Hospital!'' when Victoria started vomiting
blood, Arellano said. At one point, a guard came in
and turned her head toward him with his boot so as not
to touch her, fellow inmates told Arellano.
fever spiked and she could no longer go to the bathroom
alone, a fellow inmate phoned her mother.
''He told me that
Victoria wasn't eating and was urinating blood, but
that the officials still were not paying her any mind,''
Arellano said. ''He told me: 'Get outside help, but
try not to worry. We'll take care of your daughter.'''
immigration officer soon called saying Victoria was
hospitalized and gravely ill. Arellano spent three
days by her side.
''Her foot was
chained to the bed and when she tried to turn over, it
would hurt her,'' Arellano said. ''That made it twice as
hard. It was so humiliating. No human should have to
live their last days like that.''
Arellano said she
pleaded with the immigration guard to remove the chain.
It was finally taken off minutes before she died.
immigration experts are discussing the challenge of
dealing with HIV in an increasingly mobile world at the
conference, the first in Latin America, attended by
25,000 people. (AP)