The ACLU of Colorado on Tuesday filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado against GEO Group, Inc., which operates the immigrant detention facility in Aurora, for the death of Kamyar Samimi in December 2017.
Samimi, a legal permanent resident originally from Iran, was 64 years old when he died in December 2017 at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In Samimi’s death, the ACLU alleged that doctors at the facility cut off Samimi’s prescription of methadone, which he had taken daily for 20 years to manage chronic back pain, leading to withdrawals while he was in custody in November 2017. At one point, Samimi called a friend and told him he was “sicker than hell” and “dying here,” the ACLU report said. An autopsy report indicated that Samimi’s cardiac arrest may have been linked to a methadone withdrawal.
The ICE facility, which holds about 1,500 detainees, has faced intense criticism for months from ACLU and other immigration activists. During one rally outside the facility in July , protesters replaced the building’s U.S. flag with a Mexican flag. There have since been protests at the facility’s warden’s home and at the facility as well.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the ACLU attorneys contest that the GEO Group’s only full-time physician at the facility took Samimi off the methadone he’d been taking for 20 years on his first day at the facility, forcing him to go through withdrawal.
“The order was medically unjustifiable, and it precipitated the ugly and ultimately fatal consequences that ensued,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a statement.
The suit names the GEO Group and physician Jeffrey Elam Peterson, M.D., as defendants in the lawsuit and asks a judge to respond to a claim of a violation of the Rehabilitation Act by claiming Samimi was discriminated against for having an opiate use disorder, which the ACLU claims was a disability.