Indian immigrant dies at Atlanta airport
The immigration department said it is strongly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody - File PhotoREUTERS/Stephanie Keith

A 58-year-old Indian who was detained last week for allegedly not possessing necessary immigration documents while entering the US, died in custody at an Atlanta hospital, officials said.

Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel arrived at the Atlanta airport on Wednesday, 10 May, on a flight from Ecuador.

US Customs and Border Protection took Patel into custody at the Atlanta City Detention Center where he received an initial medical screening and was found to have high blood pressure and diabetes.

On Saturday, two days after being in the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) custody, a nurse checking his blood sugar noticed that Patel had shortness of breath. He was then shifted to a hospital.

Patel was pronounced dead at 1.20pm local time on Tuesday, 16 May. The preliminary cause of death was reported to be complications from congestive heart failure.

The immigration department said it was strongly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody. It is "undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of the incident, as it does in all such cases", it said.

Deaths in custody are "exceedingly rare" ICE said in a statement. Patel's death is the second in ICE custody in Georgia this week. On Monday, Jean Jimenez-Joseph, who was being held at Stewart Detention Center, died due to "self-inflicted strangulation". Patel is the eighth individual to have died in ICE custody this year.

Since 2003, around 165 people reportedly died under ICE's watch. Findings of the ACLU, Detention Watch Network and the National Immigrant Justice Center on immigrant deaths suggest that "instead of forcing changes in culture, systems, and processes that could reduce future deaths, ICE's deficient inspections system essentially swept the agency's own death review findings under the rug".