Saturday, February 24, 2007

Immigrant Jail Cell "Suicide"

One Immigrant Family’s Hopes Lead to a Jail Cell Suicide By NINA BERNSTEIN Published: February 23, 2007

It took 20 years of sacrifices and separations for Nery Romero’s parents, immigrants from El Salvador, to obtain legal residency for the whole family in the United States. But Mr. Romero, 22, quickly forfeited his right to stay. His criminal convictions — for an attempted robbery in 2003, and for breaking into two parked cars to steal stereos in 2005 — were more than enough to make him deportable. So it was not exactly a surprise when his probation officer showed up at his parents’ home in Elmont, on Long Island, on Feb. 8 with a half-dozen immigration agents who took him from the room he shared with his girlfriend and infant daughter.

Mr. Romero was taking a powerful prescription painkiller for an unhealed leg injury, and his girlfriend says the agents took along the medication, assuring her that he would get proper care. Five days later, he was dead. He hanged himself with his bed sheets in a cell at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, the authorities said. And they were quick to suggest an explanation. “This guy did not want to go back,” said Benjamin Feldman, a spokesman for the county sheriff’s office, which houses immigration detainees from New York under contract with the federal government. He called Mr. Romero “a reputed gang member” and said he might have feared revenge in El Salvador.A closer look, though, reveals a different and more complicated picture of Nery Romero’s short life and unusual death.

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