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Second ICE Detainee Dies Of Coronavirus

US President Donald Trumps first budget provides more than USD 4.5 billion in new spending to fight illegal immigration by adding immigration and border enforcement agents, prosecutors and judges, as well as building a wall on the border with Mexico. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A second foreign national has died of the new coronavirus while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, according to a press release from the agency.

Santiago Baten-Oxla, a 34-year-old Guatemalan man who was held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, was pronounced dead on Sunday, ICE said in a press release. Baten-Oxla died at a nearby hospital in Columbus, Georgia, where he had been hospitalized with symptoms since April 17.

The agency confirmed that his cause of death stemmed from COVID-19 complications, making him the second person in ICE custody to die of the disease.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” the agency said in a statement. “Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.”

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations Agent takes handcuffs off before booking an immigrant in Los Angeles

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations Agent takes handcuffs off before booking an immigrant in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division arrested Baten-Oxlaj in Marietta, Georgia on March 2 following his conviction of driving under the influence. Later that month, an immigration judge granted him voluntary departure to his home country of Guatemala.

It’s not immediately clear if Baten-Oxla suffered from pre-existing health conditions before contracting coronavirus.

The Guatemalan man’s death comes less than a month after Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, a Salvadoran national, became the first person in ICE custody to die from the novel disease. He had been detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego before contracting the virus.

Escobar Mejia, who suffered from diabetes, spent roughly a week on a ventilator before succumbing to the disease in the early morning hours of May 6. (RELATED: Trump’s Win With Appeals Court Prevents Release Of 250 ICE Detainees)

There are a total of 26,660 aliens in ICE custody, according to the latest data provided by the agency. There have been 1,201 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those detained.

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