Sunday, July 13, 2008

INB 7/13/08: 23-Year-Old Dies in Detention; ICE Agent Sentenced

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 16 - July 13, 2008

1. 23-Year-Old Dies in Detention
2. ICE Agent Sentenced for Sexual Assault
3. Texas Port Company Raided

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact to subscribe or unsubscribe. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is posted at


On June 20, West Palm Beach resident Valery Joseph died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida. The 23-year-old Haitian immigrant had been living in the US since he was eight, said his mother, Jacqueline Fleury. At a news conference in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood on July 8, the day Joseph would have turned 24, US Rep. Kendrick Meek joined Joseph's family members and immigrant rights advocates in calling for an independent investigation into what Meek called Joseph's "untimely death."

According to ICE documents obtained by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), Glades County Jail staff were delivering medication to Joseph on the morning of June 20 when he was found unresponsive in his bunk. Joseph could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at 10:54 am. An autopsy was performed on June 22. [Miami Herald 7/8/08; Bradenton Herald 7/8/08 from AP; South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 7/9/08]

On July 3, Rep. Meek wrote to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general to request a formal investigation into Joseph's death and the manner in which ICE handled it. "What's even more disturbing is the manner in which ICE officials ordered an autopsy of Mr. Joseph's body even before notifying the family of his death," Meek said in the letter. [SF Sun-Sentinel 7/9/08]

Fleury did not learn of her son's death until several days later. [MH 7/8/08] "No one from immigration or jail called me when my son died," said Fleury in a statement read by Joseph's sister, Sandy Jules. Fleury said the family found out because a chaplain called Joseph's girlfriend, who then called his family. A letter from ICE stating that Joseph had suffered a seizure came a week later. [BH 7/8/08 from AP]

The funeral home told Fleury that Joseph's body was not suitable for viewing, and as of July 8--18 days after Joseph's death--Fleury had yet to see his body, Little said. Preliminary results of the autopsy indicate that Joseph died from a seizure, according to Little. [MH 7/8/08] Joseph's death remains under investigation and autopsy results are pending, according to Robert DeMann, chief deputy of corrections for the Glades County Sheriff's Office. "We do know there's no indication of any foul play, no trauma," DeMann said.

Little said that Joseph "suffered from seizures," and that the extent of his medical care in detention was not immediately clear. Joseph had not complained of any illness when he last called his mother in West Palm Beach a few days before he died, said Jules.

FIAC and Joseph's family have filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking his medical records from ICE. [BH 7/8/08 from AP] Details about the death will become clearer once the agency hands over Joseph's medical records, Little said. "We're hoping we're not getting the run around and these records are provided to the family," she said. "Lack of access to adequate medical care is among one of the chief complaints we hear from detainees in South Florida and elsewhere," Little noted.

Little said an immigration judge had indicated Joseph might have been eligible for release; a hearing had been scheduled on his case for July 3. [MH 7/8/08] West Palm Beach police had arrested Joseph for felony robbery in May 2007, and ICE spokesperson Nicole Navas said Joseph was identified the following month through an ICE program that checks for undocumented immigrants held in jails. Joseph was transferred from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to ICE custody on Dec. 28, 2007. [SF Sun-Sentinel 7/9/08]

Navas responded to complaints about Joseph's death by attacking FIAC, a well-respected immigration legal services and advocacy organization. "This [is] another attempt by advocacy groups such as FIAC to tout emotion over fact from their bully pulpit," Navas said in a written statement. "There is no lack of medical care for those held in detention. In fact, quite the opposite." [MH 7/8/08]

The $32 million, 440-bed Glades County Detention Center, where Joseph died, opened in mid-2007 to house ICE detainees along with local inmates. The facility has a medical staff of 20. [ 10/1/07]


On July 10, US District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, sentenced former ICE agent Wilfredo Vazquez to 87 months in prison for sexually assaulting a female immigration detainee in his custody. Vazquez pleaded guilty in April to two counts of sexual abuse; he admitted that in September 2007, while transporting the Jamaican detainee to a Broward County holding facility, he first took her to his home and forced her to submit to sex [see INB 11/26/07]. The woman's identity has not been revealed; she is identified in court papers as "M.C."

The prison term had been agreed to by both sides as part of the plea agreement. Dimitrouleas called the incident a "horrific crime" that sent a terrible message to other people in US government custody; the judge noted that if the case had gone to trial, Vazquez would almost certainly have been convicted based on "overwhelming" evidence and would have faced a far more severe punishment. According to prosecutor Daniel Rashbaum, M.C. had agreed to the plea terms--knowing the likely sentence her assailant would face--because it meant she would not have to testify at trial. M.C. did not attend the hearing, but in a letter to Dimitrouleaus, she said Vazquez had "single-handedly destroyed" her life and asked the judge to impose the "maximum sentence," which would have been life in prison. [South Florida Sun Sentinel 7/11/08]


On July 9, ICE agents joined Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in raiding two marine companies in Port Arthur in southeastern Texas, near the Louisiana border. The operations took place at the R & R Marine Fabrication and Drydock facility on Procter Street and at a Cal Dive International facility on Yacht Club Road. The agents arrested 37 immigrant workers at R & R and took them to the ICE holding facility at a private jail in nearby Beaumont; from there the workers were to be transferred to the Houston Detention and Removal Facility. It was not clear whether any workers were arrested at Cal Dive.

Robert Keller, assistant director of field operations for CBP's Houston office, said the operation was part of a national effort to make sure that workers in secure marine areas such ports and terminals are in the country legally. Personnel from the US Coast Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Port Arthur Police and Jefferson County Constables assisted with the raid by blocking off the area while federal agents took the workers into custody. A number of workers were arrested as they tried to escape by running into nearby neighborhoods.

"We can confirm some employees were detained by ICE," Will Wilson of R & R Marine told KFDM News. "At this time, R & R is cooperating with ICE as it assesses the situation, and the company looks forward to resolving the matter very soon." Port Arthur Police said R & R Marine and Fabrication has been collaborating with law enforcement for the past year in an effort to avoid hiring undocumented workers. [ 7/9/08; Port Arthur News 7/9/08]


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1 comment:

Immigration News Briefs said...

From: Subhash Kateel (subhash(at)
Date: Tue, Jul 15, 2008 at 6:49 PM
Subject: Support the Family of Valery Joseph!!! No More Deaths in Detention!!!

We need your support! Support the Family of Valery Joseph!!! Help Needed for Funeral Costs...

On June 20, 2008, 23 year-old Valery Joseph was found dead at Glades Detention Center, a South Florida County jail that houses Immigration detainees. While organizations and advocates have called for an investigation into his death, strong concerns remain about the way ICE and Glades County officials handled the death. Valery died just short of his 24th Birthday.

But the family of Valery Joseph has a more pressing demand... making sure Valery is laid to rest with dignity. Although the funeral for Valery Joseph took place this past Saturday, the family had to take out excessive loans to pay for the funeral service. We are asking for people to donate whatever they can to the family of Valery Joseph to enable them to pay for funeral costs. Let this young man rest in peace.

Please make checks out directly to the family (Jaqueline Fleury).

Checks may be mailed to

Florida Immigrant Coalition
(Attn: Subhash )
83-25 NE 2nd Avenue
Miami, Florida 33138

You may also make a donation with a credit card online (via Chipin and Paypal) at