Lucian Ibarra, left, the sister of Jose Luis Ibarra Bucio, and Melissa Castro, Bucio's wife, talk about the impact of his loss, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Lucian Ibarra, left, the sister of Jose Luis Ibarra Bucio, and Melissa Castro, Bucio's wife, talk about the impact of his loss, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES - The family of a 27-year-old man who died after a short stint in a California immigration detention facility demanded answers Wednesday about what happened to him and the timing of his release.

Melissa Castro said her husband, Jose Luis Ibarra Bucio, was released as his health deteriorated from a brain hemorrhage and while he was in a coma from which he never awoke.

"Why didn't they do it before, initially, when he already had the brain hemorrhage? Why wait the two weeks to release him when the state of health was even worse?" she asked in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think it might be because at that point they saw that the likelihood of him surviving wasn't high at all." 

Entered US as a child

Castro said her husband had been allowed to remain in the country under a President Barack Obama-era program for immigrants without legal status who were brought to the country as children.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that Ibarra was released for humanitarian reasons. Officials at ICE and detention facility operator The GEO Group declined to discuss his health.

Castro said she was called Feb. 8 by an ICE official and told that her husband had a "passing-out episode" and was in a hospital.

Castro, who had delivered the couple's baby days earlier, went to the hospital and found Ibarra in the intensive care unit with the brain hemorrhage and in a coma, she said.

About two weeks later, immigration authorities issued papers releasing Ibarra from custody, she said.

At first, she said, his release gave her hope that someday he might be able to meet his son, and it was a relief to no longer have an immigration officer in his hospital room or to see her ill husband shackled in bed.

Melissa Castro weeps as she talks about her husban
Melissa Castro weeps as she talks about her husband, Jose Luis Ibarra Bucio, during a news conference at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles.

But now, she questions why authorities chose to release him when they did. His condition worsened and he died March 21 after the family removed life support.

It was at least the second time in two years that an immigrant detained at the privately run facility in Adelanto has fallen into a coma while in custody and been released.

Immigrant advocates have noted that releasing severely ill detainees means U.S. authorities aren't subject to the same level of oversight as when an immigrant dies in custody.

Traffic conviction

Ibarra was taken into immigration custody from a state prison in California following a conviction for fleeing from a traffic officer while driving recklessly, the statement said.

He came to the United States from Mexico as a young child and grew up in Long Beach, Calif.

Castro said his papers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had expired after his arrest.

Ibarra, a truck driver, married Castro two years ago. She is a U.S. citizen, but they had not filed papers to sponsor him to stay in the country and knew he might wind up in immigration custody after his release from prison, she said.

When her husband first got to immigration detention, he called and told her that he'd wait as long as it took if he could remain in the country with her and their soon-to-be-born son, Castro said. 

A week later, she said he sounded frustrated on the phone and wanted to see how quickly he could get out, she said.

He had an immigration court hearing scheduled for Feb. 7 and said he would call her afterward but never did.