Lax Care Is Killing Detainee at ICE Immigration Facility, Family Says | Miami New Times

Criminal Justice

Family Says Lax Care Is Killing Amputee Detained at Miami-Dade Immigration Facility

The family of Garfield Green, an amputee with severe diabetes, wonders how long he'll last in ICE custody.
Garfield Green, an amputee with diabetes, is fighting deportation while in ICE custody in Miami-Dade County.
Garfield Green, an amputee with diabetes, is fighting deportation while in ICE custody in Miami-Dade County. Photo by Garfield Green
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Garfield Green may not make it out alive from Krome Detention Center in southwest Miami-Dade County.

Since arriving at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility nearly two years ago, the 48-year-old Jamaican amputee has experienced severe medical neglect and inadequate care resulting in painful sores, a worsening heart condition, and depression, according to family members and an advocacy group fighting his imminent deportation. Already missing his right leg for most of his life, Green is at risk of losing his other leg from blood clots, and he is not getting a proper diet for his diabetes, they allege.

"It is really tough," his wife, Shamaya Green, tells New Times. "I feel helpless. He’s having suicidal thoughts. And he has a heart condition that causes him to pass out."

In recent weeks, her husband’s spirit has slightly improved, but she fears he could die while in custody or in his native country should he be deported.

Green has a pending appeal of his deportation order, and New York-based human rights organization Families for Freedom is seeking a Homeland Security prosecutorial discretion release for him. "Garfield is not a threat to U.S. soil and deporting him would be cruel and inhumane," Families for Freedom case worker Janay Cauthern says. "With this parole, he can remain in the U.S. as long as he stays out of trouble."

Bad Decision

When he was a teenager still living in Jamaica, Green was shot in his right leg by a thief who stole his bicycle, Shamaya says. The wound developed gangrene, and his leg had to be cut off below the knee. A couple of years later, Green and his family emigrated to New York City, where he got a prosthetic leg, became a U.S. permanent resident, and went to work as a union welder after graduating high school.

Harold Clarke, Green’s cousin, recalls his relative worked on some of the biggest construction projects in the Big Apple, including the new Yankee Stadium that was completed in 2009 and One WTC, the 1,776-foot-high skyscraper completed in 2013 on the site of the World Trade Center complex where the twin towers once stood.

"He was very proud about working at One WTC," Clarke tells New Times. "He had a favorite T-shirt with the phrase, 'We will always rebuild,' and the World Trade Center logo. He worked hard and didn't want any handouts."

But in the mid-2010s Green stepped into a heap of criminal trouble. In 2014, he was the getaway driver in an armed robbery of an agent who restocked ATMs in Everett, Massachusetts, according to a New York federal indictment against him. One of Green’s cohorts shoved a gun at the victim’s head while another accomplice took more than $250,000 in cash that the robbers divvied up in the Bronx following the caper. Two years later, Green was charged with interference with commerce by threat or violence, a felony.

In 2017, he pleaded guilty and was hit with a five-year prison term. During his sentencing hearing, he expressed remorse to the presiding judge, according to a transcript. "I can tell you honestly this was the biggest mistake of my life," Green said. "I feel like such a fool. I'm on the verge of losing the one thing I care about more than anything in the world: my family."

While Green was incarcerated, his wife gave birth to their second child, a son, who is now six years old and whom he has never met, his wife says. In May 2021, when his sentence was completed, Green’s U.S. residency was revoked and he was transferred to an immigration detention facility in Kansas City, Missouri, according to court documents and an ICE spokesperson. Later that year, in November, an immigration judge issued a final order of removal.

"Obviously, he committed a serious crime," Shamaya Green says. "But aside from that, his record was clean and we were hoping he would get a waiver that he was eligible for. He did his time, and he doesn't deserve what he's going through now."

Withering Away

During his time in ICE custody, guards broke Green's prosthetic leg when he was transferred to another ICE jail in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, before being sent to Krome in Florida, according to Matthew Hoppock, a Shawnee, Kansas-based immigration attorney handling Green’s appeal to reopen his immigration case.

The appeal, filed last year, claims that the Jamaican-American detainee’s previous counsel failed to explore a Convention Against Torture application that might allow Green to remain stateside. Green had grounds to file the application as he feared his co-defendants who had already been deported to Jamaica would torture him because they believed he cooperated with prosecutors, the appeal states.

Since damaging his prosthetic leg, ICE agents have not provided him with a new one and he has been using a wheelchair to move around for more than a year, Hoppock claims. "This is complicated by heart problems and diabetes that cause swelling," the lawyer tells New Times. "It’s gotten worse since arriving at Krome, where he is having serious health issues."

On December 13, Kate Sugarman, a physician with Unity Health Care, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for medical care on behalf of homeless people and inmates, sent a letter to Katrina Gutierrez, ICE’s supervisory detention and deportation officer, advocating for Green's release.

"Based on the severity of Garfield Green's medical conditions, it is imperative that he remain in the United States to receive adequate medical treatment," Sugarman wrote. "If Garfield Green were to be removed to Jamaica, there is an increased risk of death due to the high likelihood that he will be unable to receive adequate medical care."

While she had not personally diagnosed Green, she had reviewed his voluminous medical file, Sugarman wrote.

"The healthcare provided at Krome, like other immigration detention facilities, is inadequate and raises concerns about safety," Sugarman wrote. "These conclusions are supported by numerous governmental, non-governmental, and investigative reports over the past decade."

In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans for Immigrant Justice released a 104-page report about Krome and three other immigration detention facilities in Florida that documented "substandard conditions" such as failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care, discrimination against people with disabilities, and unnecessary uses of solitary confinement as a form of punishment.

In Garfield’s case, his diabetes is being poorly managed at Krome, which has "low-level medical professionals unqualified or underqualified for the care they are responsible to provide," Sugarman wrote. For instance, he complained that Krome’s medical staffers have tried to inject him with the wrong type of insulin and that he is not getting a proper diet to manage his diabetes.

The medical records also showed numerous instances of Green developing sores and other wounds caused by inadequate access to timely medical care and monitoring, Sugarman wrote. The physician also noted that guards had put Green in solitary confinement because he had refused to eat his jail food and had participated in a hunger strike. This punishment was likely to exacerbate his "mild depression" and it "put him at risk of death," Sugarman wrote.

The ICE spokesperson declined to comment about Sugarman’s letter and the allegations made by his wife. Instead, the spokesperson sent a response that stated: "His case has had full judicial review. Mr. Green will remain in custody pending his removal from the country."

"Playing Games with His Health"

Since the beginning of the year, Green has been repeatedly transported to HCA Florida Kendall Hospital, formerly Kendall Regional Medical Center, for emergency medical care, Shamaya Green says. During one of those trips, doctors had to perform emergency surgery to remove blood clots from his left leg, she says.

"It was turning black and there was a possibility that they would have to amputate it," Shamaya says. "But they didn't allow him to stay long enough to recuperate and get the treatment he needs."

During another emergency trip, doctors placed a cardiac monitor around his chest because he was passing out from what was diagnosed as a lack of blood flow from his heart to his brain, his wife says. Last month, during one of their regular conversations, he complained about being out of breath. "I thought he was going to die that night," she says. "The medical staff wasn’t coming back until the next morning, and they told him he would have to wait."

Shamaya claims she called 911 to have first responders take her husband back to the hospital. "They know he has heart issues and he has trouble breathing," she says.

"He’s told me that he feels like taking his life," Shamaya says. "They are playing games with his health. And they keep telling him that they are going to put him on a plane."
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