Officials: Man in ICE custody dies at Houston-area hospital from COVID-19 complications

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. Note the crown-like spikes on the outer edge of the virus, hence the term "coron (NIAID-RML)

Officials say a 50-year-old Honduran man who was in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement died at a hospital in Conroe last week.

According to ICE, the man’s preliminary cause of death is respiratory failure due to complications from COVID-19.

Officials say Fernando Sabonger-Garcia was transferred from the Joe Corley Processing Center to the Conroe Regional Medical Center on July 26 after exhibiting COVID-19-related symptoms. He tested positive at the hospital.

He was pronounced dead at 11 a.m. August 28 at the hospital in Conroe.

According to ICE, Sabonger-Garcia illegally entered the country near Brownsville, Texas, around August 13, 2019, and was taken into to custody at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Sarita, Texas, on August 16, 2019. He entered ICE custody on July 7 after being transferred from the U.S. Marshals Service.

The department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility were notified of the death, consistent with protocol, as well as the Honduran Consulate. Honduran consular officials notified Sabonger-Garcia’s next of kin.

“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. Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population,” ICE said in a release.

The agency’s review will be conducted by ICE senior leadership, including Enforcement and Removal Operations and the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee. Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care. Pursuant to our commitment to the welfare of those in the agency’s custody, ICE annually spends more than $269 million on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees,” ICE said in the release.