An ICE panel has recommended the release of a Nicaraguan migrant who died in immigration custody last week last year but remained in custody until his death, advocates said Thursday.

Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra, 42, died Friday at a hospital in Jena, Louisiana, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement this week. The preliminary cause of death «was reported by hospital medical officials as cardiac arrest,» he said.

An ICE panel recommended that Rocha-Cuadra be released in November, a coalition of immigration advocacy groups said in a statement Thursday. The statement said that officials at the detention center refused to release him.

From left, Frank Rocha-Cuadra and his brother Ernesto Rocha-Cuadra. Ernesto died while in ICE custody last week.Courtesy of the Rocha-Cuadra family

“They kept telling him that he was going to be released soon,” Frank Rocha-Cuadra, Ernesto’s brother and a US citizen, said in the Shut Down NOLA ICE Coalition statement. “He was guaranteed that he would come home. Our message is, we want to know what happened to our Ernesto and we won’t stop until we find out.»

The coalition said that, according to Rocha-Cuadra’s lawyers, he had been petitioning for his release and was scheduled for an immigration hearing on July 9.

“Ernesto’s premature death raises many questions that must be investigated at the highest level. This prison for immigrants must be closed,” said Rose Murray, lead attorney for direct services with the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the statement.

The statement said that while the details of Rocha-Cuadra’s death remain unclear, his lawyers say he never mentioned having heart-related medical problems and his medical records also did not indicate heart-related medical problems.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Rocha-Cuadra’s case and whether his release had been recommended.

Immigration authorities detained Rocha-Cuadra after crossing the border near Andrade, California, on April 17, 2022, according to ICE. On April 26, 2022, he was transferred to ICE custody while he waited for his immigration case to unfold.

«ICE imprisoned Ernesto for more than a year during which he suffered extensive time in solitary confinement,» the statement from the immigration advocacy groups said.

Rocha-Cuadra’s immigration lawyer, Homero López, legal director of the Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy group, said: «His tragic death after being held in an ICE cage for more than a year is a reminder of how pointless and unnecessary it really is. the immigration detention system. is.»

Immigration groups said Rocha-Cuadra was the fifth person to die in ICE custody at the Jena detention center since 2016 and the 11th during the Biden administration.

ICE said in its statement this week that it notified the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Nicaraguan Consulate General in Miami of Rocha-Cuadra’s death.