Medical Professionals Call on Rep. Cedric Richmond to Take Immediate Action to Ensure the Release of Yoel Alonso Leal
Dear Congressman Richmond,

We are writing to you as a group of medical professionals, many practicing in your district and others watching from around the country, who feel an urgent moral need to bring your attention to human rights abuses that are occurring under your watch.

When Yoel Alonso Leal arrived at the border in Texas, he presented himself to immigration authorities and shared his story. Yoel was fleeing violence and torture and passed the Credible Fear Interview, the first step in the asylum process. At that point he should have been granted parole to allow him to adequately prepare a full asylum application and live with his wife, a green card holder, in Florida. Instead, he has spent the last ten-and-a-half months being shuttled from one detention center to another while his health rapidly deteriorates.

ICE’s 2009 Parole Directive mandates that detainees be notified about parole interview dates, that they receive an explanation in a language they understand, and that parole interviews take place within seven days of the establishment of credible fear; yet Yoel and thousands of others have never had a parole interview at all. ICE’s own policies state that immigrants found to have credible fear, and who establish their identity and do not present a flight risk, are eligible for parole. Further ICE’s own policies state that individuals with serious medical conditions should be among the “first category” of people who meet parole standards.

Medical records documenting Yoel’s case show radiographic findings significantly concerning for lung cancer. This reflects his clinical picture, as he’s had recurrent bouts of pneumonia while detained. The standard of medical care in this case is urgent biopsy and treatment, yet Yoel has been denied access to this necessary, likely life-saving, medical intervention. Furthermore, he has a history of severe gout which was well-managed on a simple outpatient regimen. As he has been denied consistent access to his outpatient regimen while in detention, he is currently experiencing ineffective treatment. As a result, he has gone from being an able-bodied man to someone who is now unable to walk, dependent upon his fellow detainees for assistance with bathing, toileting, and other basics of daily care.

The 1976 Supreme Court case Estelle vs. Gamble established that deprivation of medical care constituted cruel and unusual punishment and stipulated that everyone in the US, including incarcerated people, has the right to the standard of medical care. Denying the standard of care in Yoel’s case is not only illegal and immoral, it will likely lead to his death if not intervened upon immediately.

At this very moment, Yoel’s rightful requests to be lawfully released on parole--and those of thousands of others--are being capriciously denied by an ICE Field Office in your district. We are asking you to do the right thing and intervene immediately for parole on Yoel’s behalf. Further, Yoel’s case is not isolated. There is a clear pattern of needless detention which, when combined with medical neglect, are leading to deadly conditions. That’s why we are asking you to say no to the rampant expansion of detention, in our district and across the country. As healthcare professionals, we are witnesses to the harmful effects of mass detention on the public health.

We are asking you to act now by:

1) Immediately intervening to ensure Yoel’s release, and
2) Ending the expansion of detention centers and the arbitrary and illegal denial of parole by the ICE Field Office in your district; and
3) Voting and taking leadership to hold ICE and CBP officials accountable through budget cuts so that further situations of needless and cruel detention like this do not continue to occur.

As healthcare professionals in your district and around the country, we will be watching and waiting for your response to these requests. You have the opportunity to right a tremendous moral wrong that is occurring on your watch. We are confident you will do the right thing.
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On Thursday, August 22nd, we will deliver this letter and the list of signatures to Rep. Richmond in his office in New Orleans and ask him to take action. Can you join us? *
Please also sign/share the general petition to NOLA ICE Field Office Director Scott Sutterfield:
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