Mexican man’s widow sues, says immigration detention facility staff ignored pleas for help

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The widow of a Mexican man who crossed into the U.S. illegally in the trunk of a car is suing the federal government on allegations that staff at a detention facility in Otay Mesa repeatedly ignored his pleas for medical care, causing him to die in a hospital from complications of pneumonia weeks later.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in San Diego federal court, is among a string of similar cases alleging indifference and negligence to the medical problems of unauthorized immigrants being held at such detention centers across the country. A 2007 lawsuit filed by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that settled in 2010 addressed similar issues in Otay Mesa.

“If these facts in the complaint are true, then this would violate the core principles not only of the Constitution but of the settlement,” said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The prior lawsuit “addressed precisely this kind of problem of people begging for care and not getting care.”

The Otay Mesa Detention Center houses mostly unauthorized immigrants for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as criminal detainees and material witnesses for the U.S. Marshals Service.


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