A Canadian has died after being held at a U.S. immigration detention centre for almost three months while it was facing a major coronavirus outbreak, according to The Globe and Mail.
James Hill, 72, died in hospital after he was in custody at Virginia’s privately operated detention centre run for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) Farmville Detention Center has received criticism after hundreds of the centre’s detainees became infected with COVID-19 and reported poor sanitation and overcrowding.
On July 9, Hill was set to return to Canada, but he began experiencing coronavirus symptoms just days before his flight and was hospitalized.
Hill was previously a physician in Louisiana and was awaiting his deportation at the centre after serving 12 years for giving patients Oxycontin prescriptions without seeing them.
“A 72-year-old Canadian national in ICE custody passed away Wednesday night at a Virginia hospital,” said Kaitlyn Pote, an ICE spokeswoman in a statement released Thursday.
Hill’s removal process was delayed due to bureaucratic problems after he was sent to Farmville in April. He was still being held at the centre when 74 detainees were transferred to Farmville from Arizona and Florida, which are both facing serious outbreaks. Following the transfer, 51 of those detainees tested positive for COVID-19.
Hill expressed concern to his family that he may be vulnerable to the virus because of his age. He noted that he was sleeping in a crowded dorm that held over 80 other men and added that they were so close that drips of sweat from other detainees would fall on him.
Hill also said his lungs were in bad shape as guards sprayed pepper spray when they needed to control the detainees.
“All these years he was so looking forward to being back, and then through their negligence they let him die,” said Hill’s nephew, Douglas Hunt. “We were all waiting for him to come back, we had made all the arrangements.”
Hill’s death was the 17th to take place in ICE custody during this fiscal year.