A Cuban man who sought asylum in the U.S. has died of an apparent suicide while being detained at a Louisiana immigration jail, ICE officials announced Wednesday.
According to an internal government report obtained by BuzzFeed News, 43-year-old Roylan Hernandez Diaz was found unresponsive inside his cell at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe. Shortly after his body was discovered Tuesday, medical staffers at the jail declared Hernandez Diaz dead. ICE officials told the Associated Press the man had apparently strangled himself.
Hernandez Diaz was reportedly placed in ICE custody back in May, when he applied for asylum in El Paso, Texas, along with his wife. Federal agents say border agents deemed the man "inadmissible" and placed him in the detention center as he awaiting his hearing in immigration court. BuzzFeed reports Hernandez Diaz had made multiple requests to be released while his case was pending; the latest request was denied on Oct. 8, a day before his immigration court hearing was rescheduled for January 2020.
His wife, Yarelis Gutierrez, was recently released from detention after she was ICE custody for several months. The 43-year-old said her husband had expressed his intention to go on "a hunger strike because of the abuse he endured in detention."
"He never said he was going to hurt or kill himself," Gutierrez told BuzzFeed. "This is all news to me and I don't believe it's true."
ICE did not comment about the hunger strikes allegedly taking place at immigration detention centers. The agency also refused to comment on the reports that Hernandez Diaz was in solitary confinement at the time of his death.
"ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody. While any death in ICE custody is unfortunate, fatalities in ICE custody are exceedingly rare," Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for ICE, told BuzzFeed. "Statistically, fatalities in ICE custody occur at a small fraction of the national average for detained populations in federal or state custody. ICE had a total of 9 detainee deaths out of more than 396,000 individuals in custody for all of Fiscal Year 2018—approximately 2.25 deaths per 100,000 persons."
Hernandez Diaz is the second person to die in ICE custody during the current fiscal year, which began this month. Eight people died in the year prior.