Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Questions Remain Unanswered for Ana Romero's Family

On August 21st, Ana Romero became the latest undocumented worker to die in custody. The Kentucky jail where she was being held ruled her death a suicide, as she was found with a sheet tied around her neck, but her family is demanding further investigation to the conditions of her imprisonment and the cause of death.

Preliminary media reports show that she was placed in solitary confinement due to not eating. The question is, why?

But Mario says for weeks, Ana complained about the jail food - saying it smelled, upset and her stomach and she often vomited.

“Thursday she died, Monday she called and said she wasn’t feeling well,” he says.

Now Ana’s dead and her sister can’t bear to tell their mother.

“She’s very old and she’s sick with heart problems. I’m not giving her the news yet, I have to go there personally and give her the news,” she says.

After grassroots outrage and family calls for a full investigation, a second autopsy has been granted.

State police are investigating her death as a suspected suicide but are awaiting autopsy results from the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort.

Meanwhile, Dr. George Nichols II, a former chief medical examiner for the state, is examining Romero's body in Louisville as well, according to Shelbyville attorney Matthew Pippin, representing Romero's family.

"Just like everybody else at this point, we're waiting for answers," said Pippin on Thursday. "We're making some steps right now because there is a grieving family that wants to bury their loved one.

"There's a second opinion to be gotten. We would like to go ahead and get it and be prepared to allow this family to pay their last respects to their loved one. We are just waiting and want answers however we can get them. Hopefully someone will step up and provide definitive answers here very soon."

Pippin said the family expected to get state preliminary autopsy results by Aug. 29.

The State Journal

As you can see by the time stamp of this post, August 29th has come and gone. The Romero family has still not received any information from authorities on the death of their loved one. A petition has been initiated, calling for authorities to release the results of the autopsy and answer the many questions involving Ana's death (including the fact that they withheld medication from her).

Justice for Ana Romero Petition

The recent tragic death of Ana Romero while in the Franklin County, Kentucky jail raises many questions of morality, decency, and the humane treatment of persons awaiting deportation. Ana Romero (44 years old) was living and working in Shelbyville cleaning houses in order to support her 92 year-old mother and two grown sons in college in El Salvador.

In January, she was arrested at home and detained by state police for giving federal immigration officials a false identification card, along with a previous immigration-related violation. This type of police action is part of the nation-wide ICE dragnet operation being carried out in places like Shelbyville, Kentucky; Pottsville, Iowa; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Laurel, Mississippi, in which immigrants are being subjected to raids and detentions. These operations have torn families apart, including many U.S. citizens, and has instilled pervasive fear in our communities owing to the terrorizing tactics used by the authorities and the lack of due process afforded the immigrants afterwards.

Whether or not you agree with the criminalization of immigrant workers and families who have entered the U.S. without documents, the consequences of the Ana Romero case should touch a nerve. During her nearly 8 month imprisonment in the county jail while awaiting deportation, Ana was distraught and suffered from medical ailments, refusing to eat the food which she told family members "…stinks and there is something wrong with it."

Shortly before her death, she was placed in solitary confinement. Her jailers have yet to explain why this was done.

Although the state autopsy indicates that Ana Romero died of asphyxiation by hanging, the circumstances of her death continue to be investigated. Her family has requested a second opinion because they do not believe she took her own life, given that she was waiting anxiously to return to her country and her loved ones.

The delayed public disclosure of the autopsy results and the silence from the relevant authorities only highlights the potentially scandalous nature of this case. Is there something they are trying to cover up?

The family of Ana Romero and the general public deserve answers.

What kind of treatment do persons awaiting deportation receive in jail?

Why was Ana Romero placed in solitary confinement?

What was the true cause of her death?

How can deaths such as these be avoided in the future?

And finally the biggest question of all: While we all know that immigration policy needs fundamental reform, how many hard-working immigrants, many U.S. citizens, across the U.S. are going to have to suffer from the deepening climate of repression and fear created by the racist and exclusionary policies implemented by ICE? These policies continue to criminalize immigrants who have come to work from south of our border.

How much longer will low-paid, hard-working communities of immigrants be traumatized by raids and detentions?
More information can be found at - to sign on to the petition, please send an email with your endorsement to

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