16-Year-Old's Death After Coerced Meth Ingestion Underscores Violence of Immigration System

ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE's jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times) ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE’s jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

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In November of 2013, US Border patrol agents pulled aside 16-year-old Cruz Marcelino Velázquez Acevedo for questioning around a suspected illicit substance in his possession. He didn’t survive the exchange.

While in federal custody, Acevedo stated that the substance in question was apple juice. The agents, unconvinced, coerced the teen into drinking the liquid. Acevedo succumbed to violent convulsions and died two hours later. A test kit, readily available on the premises, would have confirmed the contents as liquid meth within three minutes.

Following a settlement reached this week by his family, Acevedo has been portrayed in the media as a “foreign drug dealer.” We know little about his motivations: It is well documented that cartels employ intimidation tactics to rope in unwilling smugglers, and it is possible that Acevedo, who had no prior record, was coerced in this way. However, what led him to have meth in his possession is ultimately immaterial. ICE’s haste to portray Acevedo as a “dangerous” drug trafficker skirts the issue of ICE’s own culpability: Neither of the officers was disciplined, and both remain on the force today.

Acevedo’s death is not an isolated incident: Terror of this sort is enacted on immigrant communities as a matter of routine. ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE’s jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assaulttorture and even death. ICE is also aggressive in its cruelty toward those making the journey across the border, often disrupting humanitarian aid efforts to distribute water and condemning migrants to their deaths in the unforgiving terrain. However, within the…

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