A year-long investigation of eight Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities by a top House committee finds that the mass detention agency and its private prison contractors commonly demonstrated “an indifference to the mental and physical care of the migrants in their custody,” including downplaying suicide attempts among detainees and threatening others with solitary confinement, which is torture, for daring to ask for medical assistance.
“While the committee cannot speak to the conditions of facilities outside the scope of its review,” the House Homeland Security Committee said in the report, “the evidence uncovered was glaring in its demonstration of patterns of violations that persist across the country, different contractors, and types of detention facilities.” The report’s release just days after shocking news that women were forcibly sterilized at a Georgia detention facility makes this abundantly clear.
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“Individuals held by ICE in administrative detention deserve to have their health and safety protected,” House Homeland Security Committee members said in the report, released this week. “Unfortunately, ICE and its contracted facilities frequently demonstrate an indifference to the mental and physical care of the migrants in their custody,” including “allowing medical care to deteriorate to the point that it became necessary to transfer detainees to different facilities.”
“The Committee encountered ICE officials and contract employees who diminished past suicide attempts,” the report continued. “For example, at [LaSalle ICE Processing Center], the head of the medical unit explained that the facility had not encountered any ‘serious’ suicide attempts but only instances of cut wrists or towels around necks.” It’s horrific to imagine what the head of the medical unit would consider a “serious” attempt.
“The most common concern raised by migrants we spoke with was that placement in segregation is frequently used as a form of threat or retaliation to assert control and gain compliance,” legislators found. “For example, individuals held at [River Correctional Center] complained that guards threatened placing detainees in segregation for engaging in permissible acts that detention staff considered disruptive, like submitting too many medical requests.”
Do we believe this? Of fucking course, when ICE already issues threats right there in the open. When a Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, sheriff last year made good on a campaign pledge to not hand over immigrants to mass deportation agents unless ordered by a judge, ICE threatened the locality with more raids. “ICE’s retaliatory threat against Milwaukee families is horrific and absolutely chilling,” Rebecca Lynch of Wisconsin Working Families Party said at the time.
Among the facilities that legislators inspected was Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, a facility also criticized for the inhumane treatment of transgender detainees. “Then-ICE Assistant Director for Custody Management Tae Johnson told the committee that no immediate action was taken because headquarters was not made aware of the ‘serious nature of the problems’ until December 2019,” BuzzFeed News reported, “when officials started making plans to transfer immigrants to other facilities.”
As I’ve so elegantly stated before, bullshit, because advocates have been calling out the inhumane treatment of people in ICE custody for years now. “The report said Johnson's statements were false because not only did ICE headquarters know about the conditions,” BuzzFeed News continued, “but according to the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), Johnson was made aware of the conditions in September 2019.”
The facilities that legislators inspected knew they weren’t up to par, scrambling to improve conditions in anticipation of visits, the report said.
“One housing unit toured at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center (Adelanto) had the smell of fresh paint. A guard in the unit acknowledged that the area had just recently been painted. At the LaSalle ICE Processing Center (LaSalle), CoreCivic officials arrived at the facility prior to the committee’s arrival and instituted a major clean up—planting fresh flowers, painting the walls, and installing new shower curtains. At the Otero County Processing Center (Otero), migrant detainees told staff that individuals held in solitary cells were returned to the general population just prior to the committee’s arrival.”
But ICE made sure others who also had stories to share never had their chance to talk to investigators. “For example, at LaSalle, the committee asked to speak with an individual who was being held in medical segregation,” the report continued. “ICE informed staff that the migrant had no interest in meeting. After the visit, the individual communicated that he was never informed committee staff were present.” We already know ICE abuses people and then actively lies about it to both Congress and us—so why do we keep funding it?