There appears to be no end to the abuses and sadistic excesses of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A shocking new report from the Texas A&M Law School and RAICES nonprofit exposes the horrifying conditions that ICE subjected innocent undocumented detainees to in their for-profit prison complexes.
The report details the treatment of 80 African immigrants who were detained at the West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, Texas, which is operated by a federal contractor and private prison corporation LaSalle Corrections.
Interviews with 30 of the immigrants exposed a host of appalling human rights abuses by the prison guards and their ICE supervisors.
While detained at the WTDF, the men reported suffering numerous abuses,
including: physical assault; sexual abuse; excessive and arbitrary discipline (use of pepper spray and solitary confinement) without cause; verbal insults, including racial slurs; dangerous and unsanitary conditions of confinement; and denial of medical and mental health care.
Not that it should matter, but the majority of these undocumented immigrants committed no serious crimes – one man, who has spent the majority of his life in the US, was arrested in 2014 for a minor marijuana conviction and put away for twelve years – and many were refugees who fled the endless wars between the floundering Somali government and Wahhabi extremist groups.
The LaSalle Corrections officers used pepper spray liberally against the detainees as punishment for any kind of perceived insubordination or simply for the sake of cruelty; one man was tortured by being placed in solitary confinement for two days simply because he asked for socks and underwear.
Here is an image of a solitary confinement cell from a different facility in Georgia that was kept in similar conditions to the one at West Texas Detention Facility.
Ever seen what solitary confinement looks like for ICE's immigrant detainees?
ICE contractor CoreCivic denies using it altogether but then refused to release any photos of its isolation cells. So I obtained these from a Georgia state police investigation into a detainee suicide pic.twitter.com/dVgu1p6VEy
— Spencer Woodman (@spencerwoodman) March 23, 2018
The detainees report being sexually assaulted by having their genitals groped by guards and verbally assaulted with racial slurs on a regular basis.
Detainees who required medicine and medical attention were denied access to it while being kept in squalid conditions, such as “unclean conditions, including
drinking water with obvious contamination of dirt or other particles. They reported mold
in the showers, unsanitary toilets, and no hot water.”
The report concluded that the treatment of these immigrants amounted to “hate crimes, conspiracy against rights, and a deprivation of rights under color of law.”
From the reports we’ve received from other detention centers, it appears that this is a fairly widespread practice.
Activists allege that Laura Monterrosa, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, was sexually abused for months by one of the guards at the ICE-contracted T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an immigrant concentration camp run by private prison company CoreCivic. When she tried to speak out about her abuse, she was thrown into solitary confinement for sixty hours over the weekend in an attempt to force her to recant her allegations against the CoreCivic guards.
“She was told she would not be released from solitary confinement until she publicly stated that she had not been sexually abused,” said activist group Grassroots Leadership in a statement.
Late last month, ICE detainees at a CoreCivic-run facility in California sued the private prison contractor, alleging that they had been threatened with solitary confinement if they did not work. In October, The Intercept reported that officials had placed another detainee in solitary confinement for 30 days for “encouraging others to participate in a work stoppage” at the same privately run facility where Ahmed was disciplined, the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
While CoreCivic – formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America – argues that their use of solitary confinement is “humane” and gives a misleading representation of what they refer to as “restricted housing,” accounts by the inmates tell a very different story.
“The room is at all times locked,” Ahmed said. “If you talk, the sound does not go outside. And nobody comes to talk with us.”
“Sometimes I think I will be mentally sick,” Ahmed said of his time in isolation. “I feel pain in my head.”
Other appalling actions by the agency include:
- This past winter, ICE agents kept 92 Somali immigrants chained on an airplane for 46 hours in “slave ship” conditions, giving them little food and water and forcing them to urinate on themselves.
- Separating mothers from their children is a tactic commonly used by ICE to “discourage” immigration.
- ICE kept open their immigration checkpoints during the onset of Hurricane Harvey, forcing migrants to choose between death by hurricane or possible deportation. They then abandoned 50 people at a closed bus station in the path of the hurricane.
- ICE arrested a ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and sent her to a detention center after major surgery.
- ICE staked out a church’s homeless center and arrested undocumented migrants after they emerged from safety.
- Detainees are subjected to widespread abuse and sexual assault by ICE agents, the evidence of which they destroy.
It is clear from all these corroborating accounts that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is systematically committing crimes against humanity that we would decry in any other nation – but somehow this fails to make the news nor strike a chord with the public.
Every American should be calling for ICE to be disbanded and their agents investigated for their actions – but our nation has become so desensitized to violence against people of color that these daily abuses don’t even register.
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