Desperate and Ill Johana Medina León Asked to Be Deported; ICE Killed Her

[Content Note: Nativism; death.]

On June 3, I wrote about the death of Johana Medina León, a 25-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador who died at a medical center after falling gravely ill following her stay in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in New Mexico.

As I previously noted, she was paroled from custody the day she went to the hospital, which I suspected was because ICE was trying to skirt mandated reporting about deaths of people in their custody.

That they paroled her the day of her death is even more unfathomably cruel because, as Sam Levin reports at the Guardian, Medina León begged to be released from custody, even asking to be deported despite seeking asylum from harm in El Salvador, because she feared she was dying.
The family of Johana Medina León, a 25-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador who died this month, filed a civil rights claim against the U.S. government this week, alleging that officials ignored her numerous requests for treatment as her health "rapidly deteriorated."

Medina León, who worked as a nurse in El Salvador, recognized that she needed IV fluids, but was denied. When she asked for water, sugar, and salt so she could make her own IV, ICE also refused, the claim said. The treatment in ICE custody was so bad that Medina León, who was fleeing violence in her home country, requested to be deported so she could get medical attention, lawyers said. That request was also denied.

"She came to the U.S. because she thought it was a great country and that she would be safe there," her 22-year-old sister, Gabriela León, said in an email to the Guardian, sent by her lawyer. "She did everything right but was treated as a criminal …She shouldn't have died. She went to the U.S. seeking protection and now she is coming home to us dead."

Christopher Dolan, an attorney who filed the claim, added: "She was desperate, because the government would not provide her with assistance of any kind for her medical needs."
Medina León died of pneumonia.

It must have been actual torture for Medina León to sit in detention, where she was housed with men, getting increasingly ill and knowing she needed urgent treatment, and being denied any medical care — then denied the opportunity to leave when she was willing to risk physical harm at home just to try to access the medical care she desperately needed.

I am so sad and so goddamn angry. My condolences to her family and friends.

Medina León is one of at least four adults who have died "shortly after being released from ICE custody" during the Trump administration, in addition to twenty-four adults who have died while still in ICE custody. And: "The tally does not include migrants, including five children, who have died in the custody of other federal agencies." Which doesn't include the still-unidentified 2-year-old boy who died in U.S. custody and was, like Medina León, released from custody immediately before he died.

We have no idea the actual number of people who have died in Trump's concentration camps. We only know as much as we do about Medina León and the circumstances of her death because she has a family who loves her and wants justice.

I can tell you this: Whatever the official number is, it is not the actual number. That number is higher. And any number higher than zero is intolerable.

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