solitary confinement Roylan Hernández-Díaz Richwood Correctional Center Cuban suicide detention center ICE Cuba ACLU Louisiana asylum-seekers
Photo Courtesy of Yarelis Gutierrez Barros Facebook

Cuban Asylum-Seeker Dies by Apparent Suicide in ICE Detention Center

A Cuban asylum seeker who spent months in the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana died by apparent suicide on Oct. 15, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE officials confirmed that Roylan Hernández-Díaz, 43, was brought to the center in May after being caught at the El Paso Port of Entry, according to News 6 in Miami.

Hernández-Díaz, who was born in Pinar del Rio, according to Univision, had been transferred to the facility on May 20. He was frustrated that his immigration case was still pending in federal immigration court. Before his apparent suicide, he reportedly had been placed in solitary confinement and went on a hunger strike while inside the center.

Richwood Correctional Center is a medium-security detention center that has a maximum capacity of about 1,100 people. Hernández-Díaz’s prolonged detention and the horrific conditions are gripes of which many detainees have complained. For the Cuban migrant, returning to Cuba was not an option. He had expressed that he would either be free or die.

Related Story: ICE Going Against Its Own Rules to Block Immigrants from Meeting with Lawyers

“We came to this country in search of liberty. And we’ve found death and detention,” another Cuban immigrant detained at Richwood Correctional Center told CBS News.

In a Spanish-language interview with Univision, Yarelis Gutierrez Barros, Hernández-Díaz’s girlfriend who lives in Tampa, said that she doesn’t believe his death was a suicide. She also noted how he expressed ideas of resistance in the letters he wrote to her and that he had been suffering from an infection of his glands but had allegedly been denied medical treatment.

“He asked them to take him to the doctor, and they didn’t take him,” she said. “They didn’t help him.”

After Hernández-Díaz’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement calling for “the immediate suspension of the use of solitary confinement in ICE detention centers.”

“Solitary confinement is torture and should — under any circumstances — be used against asylum-seekers engaging in peaceful protest. We will not stand by while ICE tortures people who are exercising their right to seek asylum in the United States,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

Hernández-Díaz’s next of kin in Cuba has been notified. The devastated family is waiting to find out if ICE plans to send his body back to his native country for funeral services. ICE has not made a comment.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Latest News

CDO Series: Humana’s Carolyn Tandy

Following the murder of George Floyd, the role of Chief Diversity Officers has become more important as companies started to be more intentional with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has made the last few years tumultuous for many CDOs. In the first interview of a series of articles…

The Importance of Education-Focused Community Partnerships

Community partnerships focused on education are vital to creating and improving the network that connects diverse, underrepresented students and young professionals with employers seeking new talent. For Stephanie Turner, VP of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Innovation at MITRE, advocation starts at the root of education: grade school curriculum, especially in…

5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: August 4

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience. 1. The Supreme Court’s…

Mastercard Names Ellen Jackowski Chief Sustainability Officer

Originally published at mastercard.com. Mastercard ranked No. 2 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.   Mastercard announced Ellen Jackowski will join the company as Chief Sustainability Officer starting July 25, 2022. In this role, she will be instrumental in further integrating Mastercard’s Environmental, Social and Governance…

Seven Startups Join Mastercard Start Path Program, Supporting Underrepresented Founders

Originally published at mastercard.com. Mastercard ranked No. 2 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.   Mastercard is expanding its award-winning Start Path startup engagement program to include seven early and late-stage startups hailing from the United States, Canada and Latin America. Carbon Neutral Club, Guava, oneKIN, Palla, SUMA…