Immigrant rights advocates on Friday called for Karnes Residential Center, an immigration detention facility outside San Antonio, Texas, to be shut down amid reports of severe neglect that could prove deadly for women who have been held there for months.
In interviews with the advocacy group RAICES, women at Karnes reported that ICE officials are withholding treatment for serious diseases including cancer, diabetes, and mental health issues.
“There’s a larger punitive approach that doesn’t align with our mission to care for patients.”
—Dr. Altaf Saadi, Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network
The group spoke with about 800 women at the facility, the majority of whom are asylum-seekers awaiting hearings and many of whom are expected to be sent to detention centers in Louisiana and elsewhere to make room for families that are being sent to Karnes in the coming days.
One Congolese woman told RAICES that she’d been diagnosed with uterine cancer in July and had not been permitted to see a cancer specialist since being sent to Karnes. Another woman reported that at the beginning of September a doctor in San Antonio told her there was a high probability she has cancer, but since then she has not been permitted to get a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and get treatment.
Other women said they have gone without treatment for mental health issues, miscarriages, with several telling RAICES they have become suicidal since being denied medical care.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone dies at Karnes,” Andrea Meza, director of family detention services at RAICES, told HuffPost.
The medical neglect at Karnes has reportedly become common throughout the Trump administration’s network of detention centers run by ICE, which have been used to detain asylum-seekers for long periods of time while they await hearings.
One doctor told HuffPost that in visits to detention centers in California and Texas, she examined patients who had been refused diabetes medication and one man who had gone without treatment for a brain tumor.
“There’s a larger punitive approach that doesn’t align with our mission to care for patients,” said Dr. Altaf Saadi of Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network told the outlet.
The Government Accountability Project, which is representing two doctors who became whistleblowers after observing neglect and abuse at the Trump administration’s detention centers, called the new reports “unconscionable.”
ICE “is knowingly endangering migrants with the goal of deterring immigration at the southern border,” Dana Gold, an attorney with the organization, told HuffPost.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT