When Angel Padilla finished a 19-year stint in California's prison system for a robbery he committed as a minor, he expected to be released and picked up by his wife. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested him at the prison gates, kept him shackled, and took him to another prison—this one run by a private prison corporation called the GEO Group—called the Mesa Verde Detention Facility. After a routine scan uncovered a cancerous mass in his kidney, he was taken to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a hour away from Seattle.
Padilla says he's been denied the surgery he desperately needs. He said on February 19, he requested medical attention for nausea and dizziness, but wasn't taken to the hospital until he passed out.
"You got me in prison," Padilla said. "Don't call it detention, when you're depriving me of my freedom."
Two groups are now calling for his release. The Not One More campaign against deportations—which have skyrocketed under the Obama administration—has launched a petition around his case. Here's what they say:
Each day Angel spends in detention without the proper medical attention, his health deteriorates and the cancer spreads. Take action now and demand that Angel Padilla be released immediately so he can undergo the surgery he desperately needs to survive.
Also last week, a landmark report from the American Civil Liberties Union, Detention Watch Network, and National Immigrant Justice Center examined eight deaths of immigrants in Immigration and ICE custody between 2010 and 2012, using the agency's internal documents. Think Progress:
The report, entitled Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention, examined how ICE failed to comply with the agency’s own medical standards even after routine reviews identified violations of medical standards “as contributing factors in these deaths.” Inspections conducted before and after detainee deaths failed to acknowledge serious flaws. In all but one of the eight cases, facilities received passing ratings even when Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) inspections found they failed to meet proper medical care standards.
Three of those deaths occurred at detention centers run by the GEO Group.
On a conference call, I asked the authors of the report what should happen to Angel Padilla. Mary Small of the National Immigrant Justice Center said he should be released so that he can be free to seek medical care as he and his family see fit, and given a immigration court summons.
"I think this is not just true of the Padilla case, but across the board," Small said, "where people have serious medical issues... those people should be released to received medical care outside of detention, with the care of families and their communities."