ICE Takes Asylum Seeker Off Life Support Against Family Wishes


Although the scandal surrounding President Donald Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine is continuing to dominate plenty of the spotlight, there’s also continuing scandal surrounding the Trump administration’s treatment of detained migrants. Now, USA Today is reporting that a Cameroonian asylum seeker was removed from life support against his family’s wishes while he was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That transpired over a month ago at this point, and in the time since, the deceased migrant’s brother has been unable to get a visa to travel to the U.S., where his elder brother’s body remains.

The 37-year-old Nebane Abienwi was detained at the San Diego-area Otay Mesa Detention Center in late September of this year when he suffered what ICE has described as a “medical emergency” consisting of a brain hemorrhage that he suffered after falling off the top bunk in his cell. That incident transpired on September 26, and by October 1, hospital staff had concluded that Abienwi had suffered “brain death” and removed his ventilator.

Abienwi’s brother (who was going by Akongnwi) told USA Today that he wants answers about his brother’s death and to “make sure it’s really his brother’s body and to perform cultural rites on the body before the casket is sealed.”

He explained, discussing the life support removal:

‘We did not approve that. One hundred percent, we did not… The family spoke and said, ‘We believe in miracles. It has happened to other families, why not ours?’ I made clear that he should remain like that and the family would decide if we want to take him off that machine or not.’

Authorities did not listen. The family apparently spoke with them by phone multiple times on September 30, days after the original incident had taken place. The phone calls included a talk with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center officials, who explained Abienwi’s medical state. Akongwi only learned that his brother had been taken off life support when a reporter got in touch with him with details of the situation.

Akongwi currently lives in South Africa, but his late brother lived in their native Cameroon, which he fled as violence ramped up, having hoped to establish a place in the U.S. where he could bring his family.

His brother explained:

‘He wanted to go to the United States, get his documents, start to work, open a business and bring his family, so they can be safe and the kids could go to school.’

Akongwi has been denied a visa twice. He first applied in South Africa, but U.S. officials turned him down on the basis of claims they could not prove he wouldn’t stay in the country beyond the visa’s terms. He then tried to get a visa in his native Cameroon, where officials asked him if he was trying to get asylum like his deceased brother.

The story is one of many that have unfolded thanks to the Trump administration’s gross mismanagement, and the stories continue to add up as Trump continues to prove a threat to the security of many.