Illegal immigrants are of course routinely retained. But the officialdom does not seem to worry too very much about their heatlh. For a new survey by a civil rights groups shows that immigrants suffering from HIV/AIDS receive scant attention at the hands of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The survey by the Human Rights Watch was itself prompted by death of a transgender inmate at a San Pedro facility in California.
The prominent human rights NGO issued a 71-page report Friday to encourage the government to improve its screening and ongoing treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS at government or privately contracted facilities. According to estimates around 30,000 illegal immigrants detained every day in the US.
"We found the medical care in three types of facilities, representing nine states, was delayed, interrupted or inconsistent," said Megan McLemore, author of the report.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency had not fully reviewed the survey but generally disagreed with its findings.
"Ensuring the welfare and safety of those in our custody is one of our top priorities," Kice said.
For the study, McLemore interviewed current and former detainees, and Homeland Security and detention facility officials in California, Alabama, New Jersey, Virginia and several other states.
Among the findings:
* Failure to deliver complete anti-retroviral regimens in a consistent manner, creating the risk of drug resistance.
* Failure to prescribe prophylactic medications to prevent opportunistic infections.
* Failure to ensure continuity of care as detainees are transferred between facilities.
The most egregious case, McLemore said, was of Victor Arellano, a 23-year-old transgender inmate held at the San Pedro facility.
Arellano, who had AIDS, went by the name Victoria.
The report says Arellano was denied treatment and became gravely ill.
Despite fellow detainees' pleading on her behalf, Arellano was left suffering in her bunk as her condition worsened, McLemore said.
Arellano died July 20.
Two other unrelated deaths of detainees earlier this year triggered an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into the quality of medical care at federal detention centers.