A large “barge” (read: prison) for asylum seekers has recently arrived in the port of Portland, on the south coast of England in Dorset. The floating facility is called “Bibby Stockholm” and, beginning this summer, will “accommodate” around 500 male migrants between the ages of 18 to 65 for approximately 18 months. The aim is to keep these migrants offshore (preventing them from setting foot on English soil) while they wait for their cases to be processed. To counter immigration, the European Union and its Western allies — from Calais to the Greek islands, all the way to the Mexican border — have already transformed arbitrary territorial boundaries into walls of barbed wire and watchtowers, fashioning entire islands into migrant prisons.
On Saturday, December 24, progressive groups in Belgium protested at the Vottem detention center in Liège, denouncing the state’s unfair policy on migrants. The protest was organized by the Collective of Resistance to Centers for Foreigners (CRACPE). Hundreds of people including Wallonian MP Julien Liradelfo from the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) and activists from the PTB and the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB) participated in the protest. The protesters asked the federal government to close down migrant detention centers across the county and release and regularize the incarcerated migrants. Progressives and migrants’ rights activists have gathered and protested in front of the Vottem detention center on every Christmas Eve over the last decade to express their opposition to the opening of the detention center in 1999.
At two federal detention centers in California, more than 50 immigrant workers are on strike over unsafe working conditions and low wages. “We are being exploited for our labor and are being paid $1 per day to clean the dormitories,” said strikers at a central California detention center in a June statement received by public radio station KQED. Detained workers, known as “housing porters,” participate in a supposedly volunteer working program while locked up. They use their earnings to pay for the exorbitant cost of phone calls and commissary items like dental floss and tortillas. “They are compelled to do this,” says Alan Benjamin, a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council who heard directly from striking workers during a call with the labor council. “It's not voluntary; it's compulsory work, without proper sanitation and equipment.”
“It’s solidarity, not charity,” said Grace Kindeke, who helps people recently released from immigration detention with housing, food, legal and health services in her community of Concord, New Hampshire. Immigrants come to the United States looking for safety and stability. But instead, many find confusion navigating the complexity of the immigration system, said Kindeke, who works with the nonprofit American Friends Service Committee. Language barriers, limited cash and the federal government’s reliance on detention can prevent recently arrived migrants from getting a lawyer, understanding their legal obligations and settling into a new community, especially if they’re dealing with trauma, Kindeke said. In her experience, immigrants are highly motivated to comply with government requirements, as long as they understand what’s being asked of them and have the basics to get by.
Women who have spoken out about alleged abuse by a gynecologist while in U.S. custody won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to halt their deportations until President Donald Trump is nearly out of office. The motion filed by the DOJ must still be approved by a federal judge, but the department reached an agreement with the lawyers of several women who say Dr. Mahendra Amin abused them and subjected them to invasive procedures without their consent while they were being held at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
The Trump administration is trying to deport several women who allege they were mistreated by a Georgia gynecologist at an immigration detention center, according to their lawyers. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already deported six former patients who complained about Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has been accused of operating on migrant women without their consent or performing procedures that were medically unnecessary and potentially endangered their ability to have children.
Lawyers tasked with identifying and reuniting families separated in 2017 and 2018 under the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” border policy say they still haven’t been able to locate the parents of at least 545 migrant children, according to a Tuesday court filing from the American Civil Liberties Union. A majority of these parents — “approximately two-thirds,” the filing said — are believed to have been deported to Central America without their children, some of whom were “just babies” at the time of the separation, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told CNN this week.
In 2018, one of the biggest demands of immigrant rights activists was “Abolish ICE.” The rallying cry intensified in part due to the Trump administration’s border policy, which separated parents from children and horrified the world. Just a few days ago, leaked tapes of the first lady exposed her indifference toward the policy in 2018, and reminded us of the administration’s complete disdain of the humanity of people seeking asylum. Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is still targeting and detaining hundreds of thousands of people, and separating loved ones from their families and communities.
The climate crisis, wars, violent states and economic crashes are driving migration around the world and in this capitalist global environment, it is no surprise that a profiteering industrial complex has evolved. I speak with Siobhan McGuirk and Adrienne Pine, co-authors of "Asylum for Sale: Profit and protest in the migration industry," about the ways capitalism both drives migration and benefits from it. They discuss who has the resources to migrate, the problem with how asylum-seeking is framed in the public discourse and courts and the diverse international resistance that is forming to demand universal access to asylum.
A security guard brandished her gun at demonstrators who forced their way into ICE headquarters in New York City to protest claims of ‘mass hysterectomies’ being performed on immigrant women. The video of the female guard pointing the weapon at Abolish ICE protestors as they chanted inside the city’s Jacob K Javits Federal Building in Manhattan was posted on social media. The guard reportedly works for private security firm Paragon Systems, which provides protection for the building that also houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement and FBI offices.
A whistleblower complaint filed on behalf of a nurse who worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in southern Georgia until July alleges that a number of immigrant women detained there were subjected to sterilization through hysterectomies without their consent. In the complaint, filed by the legal advocacy group Project South, the former nurse describes conditions at the center as akin to an “experimental concentration camp.” The complaint also details the refusal of the center’s administrators to carry out COVID-19 testing or implement protective measures, putting detainees and employees throughout the country’s network of detention centers at risk of infection.
New documents shed light on what activists are calling “a dark pattern of abuse” at a privately-run, for-profit prison in Virginia used by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Obtained by the civil rights group the Advancement Project under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents describe a long pattern of abuse, neglect and mismanagement of detainees at Immigration Centers of America (ICA) Farmville — a facility where almost everyone has coronavirus. In 2015, for instance, one detainee was pepper sprayed in the face while in full restraints.
Guards in an immigrant detention center in El Paso sexually assaulted and harassed inmates in a “pattern and practice” of abuse, according to a complaint filed by a Texas advocacy group urging the local district attorney and federal prosecutors to conduct a criminal investigation. The allegations, detailed in a filing first obtained by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, maintain that guards systematically assaulted at least three people in a facility overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — often in areas of the detention center not visible to security cameras.
An attempt by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to detain two men in Bend did not go as planned Wednesday afternoon, after hundreds of protesters stalled the action for more than 10 hours, leading to a standoff with Border Patrol agents later that night. Immigration attorney Micaela Guthrie, who was among the first advocates on the scene, said the men were taken into custody in the morning, then loaded on to two buses. One man was detained at a gas station and the other was pulled over in his car, the men told a translator by yelling through the closed windows of the bus.
Two men died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on August 5. One of the men died in a hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, while the other died in his cell of a massive intercranial hemorrhage. These tragedies increased the total deaths in ICE custody this fiscal year to 17, the highest number since 2006. Many—if not all—of the deaths that occur in ICE custody are avoidable. More than twice as many people have died in ICE custody this year than last year. Unfortunately, with 1,065 active COVID-19 cases in ICE detention, that number will likely increase before the fiscal year ends in September.