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Conservative Review

People die in immigration detention of tragic but natural causes — and border personnel try to save them

The legacy media ensures that Americans are aware of the name of every illegal alien who dies in ICE or Border Patrol custody after making the most perilous journey through the hands of brutal smugglers and cartels. It is evidently now the job of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE not only to give up immigration enforcement designed to protect Americans but to perform miraculous revivals of the dead like the biblical prophets. In reality, a fair look at CBP/ICE mortality rates demonstrates a remarkable track record for that agency.

The media lament that six children have died in CBP custody this year. What they don’t offer is any context or sense of proportion. People die in government custody all the time, out of hundreds of thousands of people in custody. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) tracks the mortality rate of incarcerated individuals across the nation. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average mortality rate in state prisons from 2001 to 2014 (the most recent year available) was 256 deaths per 100,000 persons. The mortality rate in federal prisons during the same period was 225 deaths per 100,000.

Now consider the fact that 531,711 people have come into CBP custody this year at the border just for the first seven months of the fiscal year. Many of them are children coming under the worst circumstances. According to testimony from acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, most of the migrants are coming “from countries where poverty and disease are rampant,” and large numbers of them “may have never seen a doctor, received immunizations, or lived in sanitary conditions.” Then, the trip itself is so perilous with illness and dehydration that CBP and then ICE are receiving them under exponentially worse conditions than state or federal prisons receive their inmates.

Six children died this fiscal year in CBP custody. A total of nine people (all adults) died in ICE custody last fiscal year, out of 396,000 people detained. That is approximately 2.25 deaths per 100,000 persons. So far this year, five people have died in ICE custody (separate from CBP custody).

Now, obviously, there are several unique factors about immigration detention that caution against declaring that detainees are 100 times more likely to die in federal prison than in ICE or CBP custody. For one, most inmates are in prison a lot longer than illegal immigrants are in ICE or CBP detention facilities.

Also, the population in prison tends to be older than the illegal immigrant population. The older the population, the more likely people will reach their end. After all, 59 percent of those who died in state prisons in 2014, according to BJS, were 55 or older. But if you break down the mortality rate by age for state prisoners, it was 34 per 100,000 for those aged 18-24 and 54 per 100,000 for those aged 25-34. That is still well above the mortality rate in immigration facilities. And again, criminal prisoners are coming, on average, from much healthier backgrounds and not under the unique circumstances of dehydration and malnutrition or being locked in trailers by smugglers and cartels, as is the case with the illegal immigrants.

None of this fits on a bumper sticker. Every death is a tragedy, but it’s ridiculous to report on it without any context or comparison to other large incarcerated populations.

Why don’t we know the names of the 2,028 homicide victims killed by foreign nationals apprehended by ICE just in fiscal year 2018? Every year, ICE apprehends a population of criminal aliens responsible for roughly 2,000 avoidable murders. Roughly 80 percent of them have been convicted, with the remainder being apprehended and deported after arrest on murder charges. Where are the detailed lists of children killed by MS-13 members let into the country?

Additionally, we will never know the number of murders and deaths prevented by ICE because they’ve deported millions of criminal aliens, including the most violent transnational gangsters. According to BJS, more than three-fourths of felony defendants had a prior arrest history, with 69 percent having multiple prior arrests. Most criminals tend to be career criminals. It’s the 20 percent committing 80 percent of the crime. Those are the folks deported by ICE.

While all illegal alien crime is avoidable and not enough criminal aliens are deported, we have still deported from the interior and at the border 1.8 million criminal aliens from 2007 to 2018. That is a decade worth of criminal aliens who are not only off the streets but out of the country. On average, despite the appalling number of criminal aliens we don’t deport, we generally deport a larger share of the worst offenders. There is a direct relationship between the severity of the offense and the likelihood of deportation. Can you imagine the number of people saved by ICE’s ability to completely remove certain criminal elements from the country and thereby end their future criminal careers?

Immigration enforcement saves lives, but like every other issue, it requires one to look at the full picture.

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