Mexican national who killed himself in ICE custody spent 21 days in solitary confinement

Efrain De La Rosa was held in solitary for weeks, despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

ICE detainee escorted by agents into the ICE downtown staging facility in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 18, 2017. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
ICE detainee escorted by agents into the ICE downtown staging facility in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 18, 2017. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Efraín Romero de la Rosa was just 40 years old when he killed himself at Stewart Detention Facility in rural Georgia. His death came at the end of 21 days in solitary confinement, and the reason he was in solitary in the first place isn’t entirely known, according to an investigative report by The Intercept.

He is the eighth person to die in ICE custody this year, as ThinkProgress reported previously.

Romero, who was diagnosed by the Virginia Department of Corrections with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, should not have been placed in solitary confinement given his mental history. However, according to a December 2017 inspector general’s investigation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the facility where Romero was held has a long history of forcing detainees into solitary “for violations of minor rules” and refusing to complete voluntary labor.  Often detainees are placed in solitary without explicit reasons.

Immigration attorney Andrew Free, who is representing Romero’s parents and the family of Jean Jimenez-Joseph, a detainee who killed himself at the same facility in May 2017, told The Intercept that ICE should be more aware of the medical conditions of their detainees.


“Just because you’re locked up doesn’t mean you should get substandard medical care,” Free said.  “And the standard of care is to understand what treatment has been provided in the past and what treatment is necessary — and that requires getting the records.”

The inspector general at DHS said the agency’s report will issue recommendations by the end of the year. Unfortunately, that is too late for the Romero family and countless others who have been abused while in ICE detention.

Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old transgender Honduran woman who was part of the Central American migrant caravan in late April, died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in New Mexico on May 25 while in the custody of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

When she reached the United States, Hernandez was placed by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) into one of the holding cells colloquially known as “iceboxes” because of their frigid temperature.


Hernandez also lacked adequate food and medical care and was held in a cell where the lights were left on 24 hours a day. Nine days before her death, she was transferred to the transgender unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a federal prison facility that contracts with ICE. ICE maintains the primary cause of her death was cardiac arrest, while activists blame the harsh conditions of her detention.

A report from Freedom For Immigrants published in June found at least 800 complaints of abuse motivated by hate or bias in 34 immigration detention jails and prisons. The report detailed guards throwing food on the ground every time they heard someone speak Spanish. Another called a detainee a “monkey” before shipping them to solitary for no discernible reason.