In November 2019, an immigration judge granted voluntary departure to Alejandro, a thirty-three-year-old Peruvian man with epilepsy and a heart condition. Alejandro was unable to leave the U.S. due to his medical conditions, and AI Justice’s Equal Justice Works Fellow Sawyeh Esmaili filed a Stay of Removal on his behalf in February 2020, followed by a release request in March 2020. In April, Alejandro become a named plaintiff in the Gayle v. Meade litigation which urged the mass release of immigrant detainees from South Florida facilities.
Despite Sawyeh’s persistent advocacy and Alejandro’s medical vulnerabilities, Alejandro remained detained in unsafe, crowded conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic. ICE failed to give Alejandro his epilepsy medication for three days, culminating in a seizure that caused him to fall down a flight of stairs, injuring his leg so severely that he has become a wheelchair user. Given his medical history – and per their own protocol – ICE should never have housed him on the second floor of the facility. Furthermore, following this unfortunate and avoidable incident, ICE’s negligence continued as they failed to provide treatment for the injury to his leg.
ICE knowingly gambled with a medically vulnerable person’s life, subjecting him to repeated harm through inadequate medical care, broken protocol, and repeated transfers between facilities. During the COVID-19 crisis alone, Alejandro was transferred between four different facilities.
Finally, on May 7, 2020, after months of zealous advocacy by his AI Justice representatives, Alejandro was freed from ICE custody and finally able to seek out the medical care he needed. Alejandro’s story is a reminder that immigration detention is unnecessary and inhumane. Alejandro never should have been detained in the first place, but we are grateful he can now live with the dignity he deserved all along.