San Diego

Members of Congress Tour US-Mexico Border in San Ysidro After Migrant’s In-Custody Death

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Jeff Herrera/NBC 7

Members of Congress visited the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro on Friday in response to the in-custody death of an asylum seeker from Cameroon. 

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) toured the border before holding an afternoon press conference regarding the death of Nebane Abienwi, 37, while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody last month. 

Abienwi was admitted to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center on Sept. 26 after he experienced a hypertensive event at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. He was unresponsive and appeared paralyzed on his left side when he arrived at the hospital. 

He was pronounced dead on Oct. 1. The cause of his death was ruled brain death caused by a brain hemorrhage.

The CBC says they want to call attention to the mistreatment of black immigrants. 

"Thousands of African and Caribbean immigrants who immigrate to the United States of America are treated as if they are invisible," said Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the CBC, said. "Many arrived in South America and then walked north, all to be dehumanized and mistreated at our southern border. We are heading to the border to hear what they have been through. They are an important piece of this story."

Karen Blass was joined by Congresswoman Barbara lee, both of California, and representative Yvette Clark of New York. 

The spent the morning talking with families, many of them of African decent, in Tijuana. 

The purpose of this field visit was informational, to get a first hand account of what African and Caribbean asylum seekers face trying to get the U.S.

Congresswoman Bass pointed out many from Africa and the Caribbean speak french dialects and there simply aren't enough resources in that language to properly process them or even make them aware of their legal rights.

"We need to pay specific attention to the plight of the immigrants from African countries because they wind up being virtually stateless. Their process is strange, it is not transparent, it's not really clear at all," said Bass.

ICE said they are reviewing the death in a press release in October. 

"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," the statement read in part.  

Department of Homeland Security records show Abienwi applied for admission into the country at the San Ysidro Port of Entry without proper paperwork on Sept. 5, ICE said. He was transferred to ICE custody on Sept. 19.

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