Park County to Pay $1.5 Million to Immigrant Detainee

December 2007

Back in 2005 I wrote Welcome to America, It Will Only Cost You a Leg , about Moises Carranza-Reye, an immigrant from Mexico who came to Colorado looking for work. He ended up in a county jail on an immigration hold, where he lost a lung and part of a leg after developing a streptococcus infection. He sued in federal court, and today his lawyer announced a settlement. Carranza-Reye will receive 1.5 million dollars. About the Park County Jail:

Park County Jail...houses alien detainees under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).....[It] takes in immigration detainees and overflow inmates from other counties and the state prison system, charging $45 a day per prisoner; "This jail is a revenue-generator for the county," says Colorado Springs attorney Lloyd Kordick. "They're actively advertising for customers. They're also trying to minimize their costs, and they really didn't care about the consequences."

The treatment Carranza-Reyes and the other detainees received will make you sick:

Carranza-Reyes says he was handed a soiled uniform and assigned to a foul-smelling mattress on the floor between two other prisoners, in an open cellblock containing upward of fifty immigration detainees. Many of the prisoners were sick. There were two toilets for the entire unit, both spattered with vomit and feces. People coughed up phlegm or blood into wads of toilet paper and tossed them on the floor. Then other people would step on the wads in their flip-flops, tracking the fluids across the room. The two men on either side of Carranza-Reyes were so weak they couldn't get up for meals; he had to bring them their food.

Carrano-Reyes got sick and they told him he had altitude sickness. When they couldn't ignore his worsening condition any longer, they took him to a hospital.

The doctors determined he was suffering from pneumonia, sepsis, abnormal blood chemistry, and who-knows-what-else from the virulent stew of streptococci and other contagions raging in the detainee ward. ....In Denver, Carranza-Reyes went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. His body had erupted in black, crusty sores. The surgical team had to remove part of his right lung and his left foot, which had turned gangrenous.

When ICE found out, they tried to dodge the liability bullet:

When immigration officials learned that he was in the intensive-care unit in Denver, they promptly released him from their custody, absolving their agency of any further expense in the matter.

His medical expenses came to $672,000.

Fitted with a prosthesis on his left leg, Carranza-Reyes now lives in Northglenn with his brother and sister-in-law. He walks with the aid of a cane, but he does not work. The operation left a hole in his leg that has never healed. Fluids ooze out of it. Sometimes it bleeds. Carranza-Reyes has trouble breathing, but he thinks it is just because he is getting fat, sitting around and not working.

The attorney for the Denver hospital has filed a lien for the $672k against any recovery he receives in the civil suit. As for Park County,

Park County officials do not admit any liability and have denied Carranza-Reyes's charges despite the settlement agreement.

[Cross-posted at TalkLeft.com]

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