Asylum Seeker Who Fled to U.S. After Being Shot in the Head Put in Solitary Confinement by ICE, Given Ibuprofen for His Pain

An indigenous man who fled to the U.S. from Guatemala after surviving being shot in the head and tortured in his home country has said that he was forced into solitary confinement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and initially only given ibuprofen to treat his pain.

Speaking to British newspaper The Guardian, Rolando, a 27-year-old who asked not to use his full name over fears of persecution, said that he had hoped to find refuge in the U.S. when he presented himself at the San Ysidro port of entry earlier this year.

Instead, he told the newspaper, he was held in solitary confinement and jailed for months at San Diego's Otay Mesa detention facility with limited access to medical assistance.

"I feared I was going to die," Rolando said. "I thought in this country, there is really good medical care…but I wasn't getting any treatment."

Suffering from unbearable headaches and possible brain hemorrhaging, the 27-year-old said that when he asked to see a doctor, he was offered ibuprofen instead.

Meanwhile, ICE repeatedly refused requests for his release, despite Rolando having to endure dozens of medical visits, including multiple trips to the emergency room, with one ER doctor reportedly writing that he should be considered a "serious patient" with a "significant complexity of risk." That same doctor also suspected that the indigenous man could have some kind of brain hemorrhage.

Since then, Rolando has been able to leave ICE custody. However, he is still waiting to find out whether he will be granted asylum in the U.S., with the Guatemalan asylum seeker forced to wear an ankle monitor so authorities can keep track of his whereabouts throughout his immigration proceedings.

If Rolando is forced to return to Guatemala, he said he fears that he could face persecution. The 27-year-old said his father was killed shortly after he was born after he resigned from the armed forces and became a supporter of the pro-indigenous movement. His mother then died soon after "from the trauma," Rolando told The Guardian.

With his siblings unable to take care of him, Rolando, just one year old, was handed over to his family's neighbors.

When he grew up, the 27-year-old said he started living on the streets, where he said he believed he was being targeted by the people who killed his father. He said that he tried to seek help from police, only to be physically tortured by them.

According to Rolando's account, he was shot in the head at a soccer game in 2016, with his suspected attackers leaving him with a written death threat referencing his father's murder.

Anne Rios, an attorney with Al Otro Lado who is representing Rolando, said she was shocked when she saw the young man's medical records.

"It seems unbelievable, almost too absurd to be true, but it's not only documented, it's the government's own records," Rios said.

The 27-year-old said that he can only hope that the U.S. government will believe him when he says his life could be at risk if he is forced to return to Guatemala.

"I followed all the rules and I asked for admission," he said. "When you're asking for asylum, you're swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am telling the truth."

ICE detention
A guard escorts an immigrant detainee from his 'segregation cell' back into the general population at the Adelanto Detention Facility on November 15, 2013 in Adelanto, California. A Guatemalan asylum seeker has said he was given ibuprofen during his time in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody to treat severe headaches after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head roughly three years ago. John Moore/Getty