ACLU Settles Lawsuit on Behalf of Family of Wyatt Center Detainee Who Died in Custody; Suit Alleged “Cruel, Inhumane, Malicious and Sadistic Behavior”
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A federal judge today approved a substantial financial settlement on behalf of the family of Hiu Lui (“Jason”) Ng, a 34-year-old Chinese detainee who died in 2008 while in the custody of immigration officials at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls.
The settlement closes a lawsuit that the Rhode Island ACLU filed in February 2009, alleging “cruel, inhumane, malicious and sadistic behavior” against Ng and violations of his constitutional rights in myriad ways. The suit named more than two dozen defendants, including officials and employees of both the Wyatt facility and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The details of the agreement were filed under seal by the court, although it was acknowledged in open court that it was a multimillion dollar settlement. The lawsuit was handled by RI ACLU volunteer attorneys Robert McConnell and Fidelma Fitzpatrick.
Ng is survived by his wife and two sons, Raymond and Johnny, now ages eight and six respectively, on whose behalf the suit was brought. RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown said today: “Mr. Ng’s death was tragic, and no amount of money can replace the pain and suffering of his family. However, this settlement ensures that some justice has been served, provides some closure to the family, and sends a message that every person detained by the government has the right to be treated humanely.”
Despite repeatedly complaining to prison officials about being in excruciating pain, Ng was first diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and a broken spine less than a week before he died. Until that time, guards and medical personnel at Wyatt continually accused Ng of faking his illness. He was routinely denied use of a wheelchair despite his inability to walk, including when his attorney, who had traveled from New York, sought to visit him. Only a week before Ng died, immigration officials forced him to travel to Hartford, Connecticut for no legitimate reason, where he was urged to drop his appeals. To get him to Hartford, guards forcibly dragged Ng out of his cell, shackled his hands, feet and waist, and dragged him to a transport van, despite his screaming in pain.
In 1992, at the age of 17, Ng, along with his parents and sister, lawfully entered the United States on a visa. In 2001, he married Lin Li Qu, then a permanent legal resident and now a U.S. citizen. At about the same time, INS issued a notice for Ng to appear at a hearing on his immigration status, but the notice was erroneously sent to a non-existent address and Ng never received it. A few months later, an immigration judge ordered Ng’s removal, in his absence and without his knowledge. In the meantime, Ng’s wife filed a petition to have Ng’s legal status adjusted. It was at an interview they attended on July 19, 2007 to discuss that status review that immigration officials arrested and detained Ng on the basis of the faulty 2001 immigration order. Between that time and his death a little more than a year later, Ng was transferred back and forth between at least three different ICE detention facilities.
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