Elderly Korean Man Kept in ICE Detention for Nearly 90 Days Allegedly Kills Himself

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A 74-year-old South Korean man died of an apparent suicide inside his cell in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in California.

Choung Woong Ahn was found unresponsive inside his cell at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield on Sunday, according to Associated Press. A team of advocates and attorneys were working on his release, pointing out the risk of him being infected with the coronavirus.

Authorities were reportedly unsuccessful in resuscitating the elderly man, who had been at the Mesa Verde center since February 21. He was suffering from diabetes, heart-related issues and hypertension, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said.

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Ahn was taken into custody after his release from prison for his 2013 conviction in Alameda County for attempted murder with an enhancement for using a firearm. He received a 10-year state prison sentence.

The man, who was granted to live in the United States indefinitely in 1988, was denied a request to be released on bond last week during his deportation proceedings.

“He did not deserve to be treated this way,” Young Ahn, his brother, said. “He’s a human being, but to them, he’s just a number. There are other people in the same situation. It shouldn’t be happening again.”

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Although the cause of death was self-strangulation, the agency said Ahn’s case remains under investigation.

The agency had nearly 28,000 people under its custody nationwide as of May 9, including the Bakersfield facility, which had an average daily population of 334 since October 1. It was managed by The Geo Group Inc. which is under contract with the ICE.

According to the figures released by the agency, they now have a total of 1,073 positive cases of COVID-19 in their facilities after testing 2,172 detainees. About 44 employees of the agency tested positive, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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