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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gitmos across America: Drug error death of a detainee

Abdoulai Sall, 50, a Guinea-born taxi cab mechanic in Washington, DC, with no criminal record, died in detention last December.

Abdoulai, whose boss of 17 years had sponsored him for a green card, was at an immigration interview with a lawyer, Paul S. Allen, when he was unexpectedly arrested on an old deportation order — part of a legal tangle left when another lawyer abandoned his case in the 1990s, the lawyer said.

The case file shows that Mr. Allen’s office urged medical intervention for Abdoulai, who had been taking medication for a serious kidney ailment at the time of his arrest. While in detention at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va. he complained that he was not getting his medication and that his symptoms were worsening in a barracks-style unit.

Fellow detainees described him as huddling next to the unit dryer for warmth, barely able to walk. "The medical staff told him they don’t have what he needs because Immigration don’t pay enough money," one detainee wrote.

The accusation was denied by Lou Barlow, the jail’s superintendent, who said Abdoulai had received good care, including a visit to the local emergency room. "We’ve never done anything unethical, illegal or immoral," Mr. Barlow said.

Autopsy results are still pending.

Abdoulai was one of 62 immigrants to die in administrative custody since 2004, according to a new tally by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that counted many more deaths than the 20 previously known.

This is not my America!

I’ve emailed the warden. Let’s see what he suggests families can do to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Read another of our stories about poor access for our outcasts, or read Nina Bernstein’s source story.

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