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Former Detainee Sues ICE Agents for Medical Neglect

In court documents, one man alleges Bergen County Jail neglected his health and violated his constitutional rights

The Bergen County Jail allegedly withheld HIV medication for days and neglected to treat the prostate condition of an immigrant detainee, he said in a lawsuit filed late last month.

In a complaint filed with a New York federal court on October 25, Jesus Prado accused four Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents of medical neglect and other grievances. The agents arrested him in April 2015 from his assisted living home at a housing facility called Gouverneur Court on New York’s Lower East Side.

Prado, a 60-year-old immigrant from Latin America who tested positive for HIV in 1994, has been diagnosed with physical and mental disorders including depression and acute cerebral toxoplasmosis, the complaint said. He has difficulty remembering details and thinking clearly.

Since 2009, he has received housing through the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration, moving into the Lower East Side Gouverneur Court housing complex in 2013, according to the complaint.

At about 5:00 a.m. on October 27, 2015, Prado woke to a loud noise from the front door of his apartment.

“Police! Open the door!” the agents shouted at him. Prado opened the door, agents barged into the apartment, shoved him to his bed and he started crying, according to the complaint.

He was arrested and taken to the immigration court at 26 Federal Plaza and then sent to the Bergen County Jail, a facility where ICE holds immigrant detainees in Hackensack, NJ, about 30 minutes from the Lower East Side.

It took five days for him to receive his HIV medication, according to the complaint. After the jail started administering it, they gave him the wrong medication for several days. “He felt as though he was going to die without his medications and feared he might kill himself,” according to the complaint.

The complaint also claims that a prostate condition Prado had worsened after ICE neglected to provide him with medication for several days. Medical staff at the jail gave Prado a catheter, which worsened his pain and made it harder for him to sit or walk.

While still at the Bergen jail in early 2016, Prado saw a urologist, who told him his prostate was no longer treatable with medication and he would have to undergo a “transurethral resection of the prostate” surgery. The surgery took nearly two months to arrange. When Prado’s attorney contacted ICE with complaints about his medical treatment, they offered to send him to medical facilities in Buffalo, NY, or Miami, Fla. He was released from detention by an immigration judge on April 19, 2016 and returned home to Gouverneur Court.

An ICE spokesperson said the agency declines to speak about all pending litigation. The Immigrant Defense Project also declined to speak about the case. The Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jail, did not respond to a request for comment.

Prado said in the filing that he’s still suffering from emotional distress due to the arrest. At home, he “routinely places large objects behind his door, fearing another intrusion. He is unable to leave his apartment after certain hours of the night, and cries when he remembers his arrest,” according to the complaint.

Prado is suing the four ICE officers who arrested him on multiple claims, including that the agents unconstitutionally entered and searched his home, trespassed and acted negligently towards his health and wellbeing. Prado and his lawyers are requesting a trial as well as damages.

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