José Ibarra, 27

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), the largest immigrant rights organization in California is demanding answers to what happened to DACA recipient José Ibarra, 27, who died under mysterious circumstances in February while in custody at Adelanto Detention Facility, owned and operated by the GEO Group.

“We want to make clear that we are not accusing ICE, GEO or anybody for anything in particular specifically. We want answers to questions, and thus far our questions have not been answered,” said CHIRLA spokesman  Jorge-Mario Cabrera with the family at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 10.

The family, represented by Ibarra’s wife Melissa Castro, and his sister Lucian Ibarra, has not received a full report detailing why Ibarra — who was detained at the High Desert facility on Jan.30 — collapsed Feb. 7 on his way to an immigration court hearing.  He was eventually taken to a health care facility in the nearby town of Victorville, then later transported to Loma Linda University Hospital by GEO officials.

Both Castro and Lucian Ibarra said the family was not notified of Ibarra’s collapse and hospitalization for nearly 24 hours. On Feb. 8, Castro went to visit her husband and learned that Ibarra us suffered a brain hemorrhage, was paralyzed, and in a coma. She also discovered he was handcuffed to his bed and two armed guards had been placed in his room. 

Four days later Castro would give birth to the couple’s son.

On Feb. 22, ICE gave notice in a letter it was terminating his detainment after being incarcerated for 26 days, and be released on his own recognizance.

But Ibarra never recovered. He was taken off life support by his family on March 20, and died a day later. He never got to meet his son.

“As his wife who just gave birth to his [two-month-old] son, I am sad he is no longer with us,” Castro said, fighting back tears. “My son will never be able to experience the love and happiness my husband brought to my life, as I know he would have brought to his.

“This experience has caused so much pain and suffering, that I was diagnosed with postmortem depression. This is the last thing I could have imagined that would happen.”

Lucian Ibarra, herself a DACA recipient, said she finds herself as well as her family “feeling devastated,” by her brother’s “sudden and unexpected death.” She, too, wants answers to the many questions her family has.

“I loved his sense of humor,” she said of her brother. “That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most about him. He was a very protective and loving person. Even though he was my younger brother and my only brother, he taught me a lot. I don’t know how I’m going to live without him because he is, and is gonna be, irreplaceable.”

Cinthia Flores, a CHIRLA deportation defense attorney, said the testimony given by the family “is consistent with the type of experience several of our clients have communicated to us” after being detained in the Adelanto facility.

“In our experience as legal representatives to detainees and their family members we have observed substandard medical care at the detention center. Detainees are not given adequate care or have been prescribed incorrect medication. Detainees do not receive treatment for mental health conditions.

“The truth is, there is a big problem with the administration of the detention center in Adelanto. This past February, the Attorney General of California presented a report that identified as a problem the difficulties of obtaining medical and mental treatment within the detention center. The inhumane treatment of detainees must end.”