Like many migrants, Melvin Ariel Calero-Mendoza made the difficult journey to the U.S. for a better life.
"He was a hard worker, since he was a kid," said a niece of Calero-Mendoza, who did not want to be identified. "And he got there, wanting to ask for asylum."
The 39-year-old Nicaraguan father of two died suddenly on Oct. 13, while in custody at the Aurora ICE Detention Facility. He had been there since May 2 awaiting deportation court hearings. Calero-Mendoza's niece said they were given limited information on his death, and all they know is that he fell, began convulsing, and was taken to a hospital, but it remains unclear how exactly he died.
"We haven't been given any specifics, a response on everything that happened," she said.
Calero-Mendoza hoped to be reunited with family members in Indiana one day. The niece told CBS News Colorado he didn't have any underlying health conditions that they knew of.
"The loss of Melvin is an avoidable loss," said Laura Lunn, the director of advocacy and litigation with the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network. "He was only 39 years old. There must of been some type of catastrophic incident for him to pass away that suddenly."
In a statement an ICE spokesperson said, an autopsy is pending to determine the official cause of death and that deaths in custody are exceedingly rare. The agency continued, saying it is "firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident." But Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 6th Congressional District and who has long worked to get more oversight of the facility, said one death is too many.
"Saying things only happen three times every 30 years, is not an answer," Crow said. "This is not the way we should be doing business. This is somebody's family member, somebody's loved one."
While details are limited on what actually happened inside the facility on that fateful day, Crow said he's seeking answers for Calero-Mendoza and his family.
"We'll just be working really hard to make sure that all protocols are followed for an investigation," Crow said. "We'll be sending a letter soon to Department of Homeland Security to make sure they are looking at this quickly and fully."
As hundreds of migrants continue to show up at the southern border, Crow said it's critical we look at immigration reform to avoid tragedy's like this from happening again.
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