Updated: Mar 1
Contact: Jesus Chavez, jchavez[@]centrolegal.org
Richard Diaz, Richard.Diaz[@]disabilityrightsca.org
Lisa Knox, lisa[@]ccijustice.org
May 17, 2021
For immediate release
Press Release: One Year Death Anniversary for Mr. Ahn, AG Bonta Can Bring Justice
The undersigned organizations issued the following statement on the 1-year anniversary of the death of Mr. Choung Woong Ahn, who died while in the custody of a private, for-profit immigration detention center:
“Today we celebrate the life of Choung Woong Ahn, and mourn its loss as the Earth completes one revolution around the sun since his passing. Mr. Ahn was a 74-year-old South Korean immigrant who died locked inside the Mesa Verde ICE Detention Center, owned and operated by The GEO Group, Inc., on May 17, 2020.
Mr. Ahn’s death could have been avoided. It is yet another painful example of how deadly for-profit human cages are. ICE and GEO repeatedly ignored their own detention standards, but above all, they displayed total disregard for the health and safety of Mr. Ahn. The undersigned organizations understand that there is nothing that we can do to bring Mr. Ahn back and repair the broken hearts of his family and community. What we can do is to ensure that we do not lose another life in the hands of an inhumane system.
With the support and guidance of Mr. Ahn‘s family, we filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division. We also called upon former California Attorney General (“AG”), Xavier Becerra, to investigate GEO’s violations. To this day, no accountability mechanisms have materialized, and since then, Xavier Becerra was promoted as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The new California AG, Robert Bonta, the state’s first Asian-American AG, has the opportunity to bring justice for Mr. Ahn’s family and to ensure that for-profit, private prison operators are held accountable for their abuses. The death of Mr. Ahn occured at the hands of a for-profit contractor, in violation of the specific standards of care for the operation of that facility.
AG Bonta has the authority to conduct a thorough investigation of Mr. Ahn’s death. The AG has a duty to uphold the laws of our state, seek accountability from those who violate our laws, and protect the rights of the most vulnerable. Most important of all the AG has the authority and duty to seek justice.
We invite AG Bonta to immediately begin an investigation into Mr. Ahn’s death and hold GEO Group accountable. As AG Bonta recently said, without accountability there is no justice. Mr. Ahn’s family and community, and countless others impacted by private detention operator abuses, deserve answers.”
California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, www.ccijustice.org
Centro Legal de la Raza, www.centrolegal.org
Disability Rights California, www.disabilityrightsca.org