Posts Tagged ‘ICE’
Wildrick Guerrier, 34, has apparently died of cholera in a Haitian jail. Guerrier was among the 27 Haitians deported by the U.S. on January 20 despite the fact that Haiti has a massive ongoing cholera epidemic. He had lived in the United States since he was 16 as a Legal Permanent Resident, and was completing an 18-month criminal sentence when he was transferred to ICE detention and ordered deported in November 2010. (CORRECTION: I should note that it’s not been confirmed that Guerrier had cholera; his symptoms were extreme vomiting and diarrhea. So he could also have died of simple gastrointestinal distress that went untreated in the chaotic conditions of the Haitian jails.)
Advocacy groups have been begging ICE that it’s still too dangerous to deport anyone to Haiti; the U.S. has yet to even respond to their emergency petition. Now we know of at least one casualty of ICE’s insistence on continuing with “business as usual” even if it means deporting people into a country where they are likely to be thrown into a festering, cholera-ridden, overcrowded jail.
About a week ago, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights issued a press release accusing the U.S. of “deportations to a death trap.” Now it seems their accusations were all too well founded:
In December, ICE detained more than 300 Haitians. Many were then transferred to three remote jails in Louisiana – far from their families, attorneys and supporters. Most had served their criminal sentences and, prior to this round-up, had been released from ICE detention. Some have serious medical conditions. Most have U.S. relatives who are legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens who will be hurt by their loss.
The routine practice of the Haitian government is to jail deportees with criminal histories under conditions widely documented as atrocious and inhumane. Prisoners are not fed or provided medical care. Whether or not they have served a criminal sentence, no Haitian should be sent to a cholera-infested jail where they risk death. For its part, Haiti does not need United States to send it more people to feed and shelter.
That’s the headline of this Campus Progress report (h/t: Adam Serwer). Immigration detention generally happens in private prisons run by the Corrections Corporation of America or county jails that contract with ICE. LGBT detainees are especially at risk:
And at the San Pedro Service Processing Center in California, a guard forced a transgender woman to repeatedly perform oral sex on him while she waited for her attorney in a holding cell. Even after she reported the incident, the staff took so long arranging for evidence collection that she was forced to wait overnight to wash out her mouth.
Violence against LGBT detainees, in particular, is a growing problem, as they are especially vulnerable within the detention system. In addition to being singled out for harassment as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, transgender women often face the added risk. They are often housed with male detainees and supervised by male guards. Under those conditions, transgender women are even more susceptible to violence than those held in women-only facilities. …
Unfortunately, efforts to safeguard this particularly vulnerable population have proven distinctly harmful as well. For instance, when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted site visits of seven Southwest detention centers last year, they were troubled to find that some facilities attempted to protect LGBT detainees by keeping them in solitary confinement—a harshly punitive measure often used in prisons to discipline disobedient criminal inmates.
The ACLU of Southern California, which has long been involved in litigation over conditions in the Los Angeles County Jail, filed a motion earlier this week in federal court seeking a protective order for inmates who report grievances. The motion alleges a pattern of violent retaliation by prison guards against these inmates, ranging from beatings and stompings to broken bones.
L.A. sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore says the ACLU is exaggerating:
“What the ACLU is characterizing does not occur in men’s central jail,” Whitmore said. “The judge that oversees it toured the jail recently without condemnation.”
Whitmore said “regrettably from time to time there are physical altercations,” but added that every use of force is thoroughly investigated and said the Office of Independent Review, which monitors the department, called the jail system the most transparent in the nation.
The L.A. County jail system is the largest in the nation, with some 20,000 inmates. Men’s Central Jail, which is the facility at issue in the protective order motion, holds about 4,500 men, of which about 80% are pretrial detainees. Last week two inmates committed suicide in the facility.
Related news: L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca is calling for an expansion of the ICE Secure Communities program.
Deportation Nation, which produces original reporting on ICE’s Secure Communities program, is collecting stories about people’s experiences in immigration detention. You can listen to stories or share your own at this link. DN also provides a library of statistics and other primary sources about how Secure Communities works.
Meanwhile, DN currently has several stories worth reading about developments in counties’ ability to opt out of Secure Communities. Although there has been some confusion about whether counties can do this, federal officials recently confirmed that it is possible and outlined the process for doing so. Already, California’s San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and Virginia’s Arlington County have voted to do so.
Secure Communities is an ICE initiative to partner with local jails to cross-check arrest data with immigration status, allowing ICE officials to begin deportation proceedings if there is a match. The program has been promoted as a way to identify “truly dangerous people” (those words are from Rep. David Price, D-NC), and ICE hopes to expand it to all of the nation’s county jails by 2013. However, as DN notes,
the vast majority of immigrants deported through Secure Communities committed low-level offenses like trespassing, disorderly conduct and traffic offenses. Others simply face charges and have yet to be convicted.
If you need proof that the U.S. immigration system is broken, you need look no further than the case of Pedro Guzman, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen with developmental disabilities who was erroneously deported to Mexico in 2007 and lost for three months while his family in California desperately searched for him. Then consider that Guzman’s experience was not an isolated snafu. According to a new Human Rights Watch/ACLU report, about 15% of immigration detainees suffer from a mental illness—which adds up to 57,000 mentally ill detainees in 2008 alone. Immigration law is among the most complicated legal specialties, yet there is no right to appointed counsel in deportation proceedings (which are civil): as a result, every day immigrants are deported who may well have been eligible for some form of relief from deportation, had they had legal representation. But this situation is only exacerbated for the mentally ill, who may not be able to provide ICE officials and Immigration Judges with even the most basic information about their identity.
Yesterday, two ACLU affiliates joined with Public Counsel and the Casa Cornelia Law Center to file a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of California, challenging the U.S. government’s treatment of two mentally ill detainees who were kept in ICE lock-up indefinitely. The two plaintiffs are Jose Antonio Franco Gonzalez, the 29-year-old son of lawful permanent residents, who is mentally retarded and does not know his age, birthday, or how to make phone calls; and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, 48, who has paranoid schizophrenia:
In both cases, an immigration judge found the men incompetent to face proceedings, and their immigration cases ground to a complete halt. But instead of releasing them to the custody of family members or providing them with release hearings, immigration officials insisted on keeping the two men locked up, often in conditions that only exacerbated their already vulnerable mental states.
“These men were completely forgotten in the immigration prison system, their cases neglected for years. In other words, they were punished for having a mental disability,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrant rights and national security for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Nobody tracked their cases, or even knew why they were detained. It’s a nightmare no family should face, but many will unless there’s true detention reform that creates standards to deal with individuals with mental disabilities.”
As the ongoing scuffle over Arizona’s SB 1070 demonstrates, many in this country seem to believe that it’s a scandal that undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Cases like those of Pedro Guzman, Jose Antonio Franco Gonzalez, and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez make clear that the real scandal is how the U.S. immigration enforcement apparatus abuses those in its custody, whatever their legal status.
Sometimes journalists who cover jails, prisons, immigration detention centers, etc. spice up their ledes by making some imagined comparison to hotel amenities. In fairness, their sources who are also fond of the comparison (see, e.g., this post). Anyway, here’s an example from today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
New menus. Redesigned living areas. Bingo nights. Dance classes. Continental breakfasts. Self-serve beverage bars.
These aren’t features of some swanky new hotel. They are among a host of new amenities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering at two immigration detention facilities in Georgia.
I would really like to see a moratorium on this trope. It’s somewhat offensive and virtually always inaccurate. This article refers to eight private immigration jails run by Corrections Corporation of America that are due to be redesigned. Whatever the new amenities after the renovations, I can pretty much guarantee they will not resemble “swanky new hotels.” Hotels typically aren’t surrounded by concertina wire. And I’ve known some swanky people in my time and they do not typically build their travel itineraries around where they can get bingo and self-serve lemonade.
Although this blog focuses on conditions for people being detained as part of the criminal trial process, or who are serving a criminal sentence, the United States of course detains people for many other reasons. Among those people are the 300,000 men, women, and children in immigration detention, and the hundreds of War on Terror detainees who have been held at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Although these forms of executive detention often raise different legal questions than the criminal justice system, ultimately none of these issues are separable: they are all part of the same national conversation about liberty and security, and in that way they all inform each other.
So, I thought I would take a break from prison/jail news this morning, and highlight two recent articles about executive detention. (I’ll do this in two separate posts, so this is Part I.) First, immigration detention, which raises particularly salient human rights concerns not only because of the conditions of confinement in many of the facilities ICE uses, but also because it catches in its net so many families and even young children. In The Nation, Jacqueline Stevens has this commentary entitled “Broken ICE,” on America’s thoroughly broken system of immigration detention, focusing on one New York facility:
In January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that by February 26 it would be transferring roughly 250 detainees from the privately run Varick Detention Center in Manhattan to the Hudson correctional center in Kearny, New Jersey. About 12,000 people annually, mostly New Yorkers who would be held at the Varick center, will now be distributed to facilities outside the city. ICE claims it is making the transfer to provide “outdoor recreation space and visitation services,” but civil rights advocates paint a darker picture.
“We view this as a lose-lose situation,” says Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which, along with numerous other New York civil rights organizations, is disturbed that ICE is shifting people from one intolerable facility to another and not releasing them. The groups also worry that the move will deprive the Varick inmates of their free legal services.
The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports that Oregon’s new inmate deportation program is off to a start, albeit a slow one. The program applies only to inmates who are in the U.S. illegally, have less than six months left on their sentences, and have been convicted for certain nonviolent crimes, such as drugs or theft:
The state hopes to save more than $2 million over the current two-year budget cycle by sending the inmates back to their home countries, in Oregon’s case, mostly to Mexico.
The savings from the early deportation program were expected to begin shortly after it was approved by the Legislature last year. But a legal glitch delayed finalizing the agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, until January.
Oregon Department of Corrections officials said the program is now under way, with about a dozen inmates already handed over to ICE for deportation.
Prisoners waive their rights to challenge the deportation in exchange for commutation of their sentence by the governor and early release. They also face tough penalties if they return illegally.
Only a handful of other states have similar programs, but most have saved money.
New York has saved about $152 million since 1995 with its version of the program, while Arizona has saved more than $33 million since 2005, immigration officials said.
Georgia has reported the most successful program so far, removing more than 3,600 illegal immigrant inmates from October 2008 through August 2009 for an estimated savings of $204 million.
However — as the article also notes, and as the Boston Globe reported a few weeks ago, a similar program in Rhode Island has yet to result in a single deportation, because of the program’s strict criteria combined with the small number of illegal immigrants in Rhode Island prisons.