El Refugio, a ministry of hospitality and visitation serving those detained at Stewart Detention Center (SDC) and their loved ones, expresses our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Pedro Arriago-Santoya, who died Wednesday. Mr. Arriago-Santoya became ill at SDC, where he had been detained since April 24.
“We are holding Pedro’s loved ones in our hearts during this time of terrible loss,” said JoAnn Weiss, El Refugio’s chair. “Pedro’s death is yet another tragedy at Stewart Detention Center, a place that has notoriously poor medical care and living conditions.”
In announcing Mr. Arriago-Santoya’s death, ICE referenced alleged misdemeanors in his background, defaming him even before his next of kin could be located and notified.
“The immigrant detention system disregards the value of the lives of immigrants and asylum-seekers, showing no humanity or compassion toward them,” said Amilcar Valencia, El Refugio’s Executive Director. “Mr. Arriago-Santoya’s life was precious and sacred; it was as valuable as the life of every person. At El Refugio, we affirm every human being’s inherent dignity and rights no matter where they were born.”
Mr. Arriago-Santoya is the fourth person to die at SDC in the last two years. He is the seventh person to die while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this fiscal year, according to ICE. Reports such as “Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers” published by Project South, have detailed a long history of abuse and medical neglect at SDC. A total of 194 people have died in ICE immigrant detention since 2003.
According to ICE, Mr. Arriago-Santoya complained to SDC staff of abdominal pain on July 20. After a medical assessment, he was transferred to a regional hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia. On July 21, Mr. Arriago-Santoya was transferred from the Southwest Georgia Regional Hospital to the Piedmont Midtown Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia, where he died three days later.
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