May 2, 2013 8:25 PM
ELOY, AZ - Two illegal immigrant detainees have committed suicide at the Eloy Detention Center in the last week, federal authorities confirmed Thursday.
Amber Cargile, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the most recent was a 40-year-old man from Guatemala. A 24-year-old woman from Guatemala was found hanging in her cell on Sunday. It's not known if the two knew each other, but Cargile said they were living in separate pods.
According to Cargile, the man had been at the facility since March. He was awaiting immigration hearings related to his removal case. She said Jorge Garcia-Mejia was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Phoenix Police Department into suspected sexual conduct with a minor.
ICE released the following statement Thursday: "As part of the agency's ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of individuals in its custody, IHSC mental health professionals and the facility chaplain are conducting group counseling sessions for detainees. In addition, the deployed IHSC mental health personnel will work with the facility administrator at the Eloy Detention Center to provide further suicide prevention and awareness training for detainees and facility staff."
Margo Cowan is a Pima County Public Defender who works on immigration cases. She was at the facility Thursday morning and said her client was distraught about the young woman's suicide. "Whatever they've left to come to America for is much worse than these conditions, but certainly these conditions now are coming to a point where there's so much psychological torture going on that people can't stand and they're taking their own lives," Cowan said.
The Guatemalan consulate did not return News 4 Tucson's request for comment.