If the story I posted earlier this week about the undocumented Mexican immigrant left in a holding cell for four days — alone, without food, water or any sort of sanitation — didn’t sufficiently prove that immigrants are being treated with an ever-harsher hand, more like animals than human beings, then this one might.

“In a stinging ruling, a Los Angeles federal judge said immigration officials’ alleged decision to withhold a critical medical test and other treatment from a detainee who later died of cancer was “beyond cruel and unusual” punishment.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson allows the family of Francisco Castaneda to seek financial damages from the government.

Castaneda, who suffered from penile cancer, died Feb. 16. Before his release from custody last year, the government had refused for 11 months to authorize a biopsy for a growing lesion, even though voluminous government records showed that several doctors said the test was urgently needed, given Castaneda’s condition and a family history of cancer, Pregerson said.”

Essentially, Mr. Castaneda, an undocumented Salvadorean immigrant, was arrested on a drug charge, and when it was discovered he was unlawfully present, he was transferred to immigration custody and put into a detention center. He developed a legion on his penis and requested medical care, specifically a biopsy. Numerous physicians recommended, after examining Castaneda, that he required an urgent biopsy. He had a family history of cancer. The physician for the Division of Immigrant Health Services, apparently in charge of actually ordering tests and releasing detainees, determined that because a biopsy was an “elective outpatient procedure,” that Castaneda could not be admitted to a hospital. Eleven months passed. The ACLU intervened and he was quickly released. He went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with cancer. His penis was amputated, chemotherapy was too little too late, and he died a few months later.

“Mr. Castaneda’s case was just outrageous,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), chairwoman of the [House] subcommittee [on immigration], said in an interview Tuesday.

Lofgren said one of the things she found most troubling was that “bureaucrats” at Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington have the power to overrule recommendations of doctors who have actually seen the medical problems of detainees. “That is a recipe for disaster,” she said.


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