US wants out of suit over Chinese detainee’s death

PROVIDENCE -The alleged neglect and death of a terminally ill Chinese immigrant detained in a Rhode Island jail two years ago triggered scathing reports and investigations, a wide-ranging federal lawsuit and hand-wringing over who was responsible.

A judge will hear arguments this week on whether the federal government bears culpability in the August 2008 death of Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng, 34, who was accused of overstaying a tourist visa and detained at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls for the last month of his life.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is one of about two dozen defendants in the lawsuit and seeks to be dismissed on grounds that staffers at the jail are contractors — not government employees. But lawyers for Ng’s family see the federal government as a critical target that should be held accountable, especially since it’s responsible for enforcing immigration law.

Advocates for immigrants’ rights say Ng’s death and similar cases raise troubling questions about uneven oversight of detention centers, especially those like Wyatt that are privately run, and the absence of clear lines of accountability when something goes wrong.

“That death highlights a larger trend and cry for greater transparency, improved medical care and legally enforceable detention standards,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.