Previously confidential records from within the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) confirm years of inadequate medical care, extensive use of solitary confinement, mistreatment of transgender individuals, shortcomings in rape and sexual assault prevention and response, inaccessible services, and other problems disclosed by people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is making dozens of these reports public after a nearly five-year Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legal battle ended with a judge ordering the department to release the records.
At two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers in California’s Central Valley, a cycle of resistance and retaliation has been intensifying over the past three years. Detainees at the facilities, which are operated by for-profit prison company GEO Group, have organized against abysmal conditions, prompting detention center authorities to respond with increasing levels of punitive action. A motion was filed with the Eastern District Court of California on May 18 as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit against GEO pertaining to the facilities. The filing marked a major escalation in a multipronged campaign being waged by current and former detainees, and outside advocates, to hold ICE and GEO accountable for their mistreatment.
Immigrant rights attorneys filed a complaint against United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that alleges that ICE detained a migrant worker known for speaking out against workplace abuse at construction and poultry plants. Baldomero Orozco Juarez, an indigenous father from Guatemala who lives in Mississippi, was arrested at an ICE check-in on April 12, 2023. Authorities sent Orozco Juarez to a private detention facility in Jena, Louisiana, owned by LaSalle Corrections. He faces deportation. In 2019, Orozco Juarez was deported to Guatemala after the “largest workplace immigration raid in a single state.” Nearly 700 people at poultry plants owned by companies like Koch Foods and PECO foods were rounded up by ICE.
Austin, Texas - Last weekend, an activist from Austin was detained at the Austin airport by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon reentry to the U.S. after traveling abroad. They were held for about 3 hours and questioned about their political beliefs and associations and their protest activities. CBP also searched their phone and likely copied the entire contents of the phone for later analysis. We are releasing this statement to shed light on this aspect of government surveillance, harassment, and repression, and to provide important lessons for other activists to better protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities in the future. CBP is a large but seldom discussed federal law enforcement agency with broad powers at the border and ports of entry, including all international airports. The more notorious Border Patrol is a division within CBP, whereas ICE is a separate agency.
When you are in a process like this one, all of your body shivers, every bit of yourself shakes, because you do not want to make mistakes to be again at risk of being detained or deported,” says Carlos, whose name has been shortened to avoid affecting his immigration case. “It wears you out.” Carlos settled in Fontana, Calif., coming from Chimalhuacán, on the outskirts of Mexico City, in 2002. But after a misdemeanor in 2019, Carlos was subject to deportation proceedings. He was imprisoned for three months, electronically shackled for more than a year, and, in January 2021, ordered to install an app on his phone so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents could check in on him. The app uses voice recognition and geolocation to verify that Carlos is at home, which ICE says helps ensure his “compliance with release conditions.”
Neal, a Jamaican citizen who owned and operated a yacht servicing company for 25 years in South Florida, spent 17 months in a prison that’s been converted into a detention center for immigrants in Georgia. Speaking to us of his experience at the Folkston ICE Processing Center, Neal described a prison that lacks basic safety and care for the people detained there and overall conditions that reveal a jarring lack of regard for human life. “That place is not for safety or for human beings—it is just for money,” said Neal, who wishes to be identified by his first name only. “I thought this government was going to close down all of those private ICE prisons. Politicians say anything when they want votes.” On June 30, a government investigation of Folkston identified numerous violations that “compromised the health, safety, and rights” of detained immigrants.
President Joe Biden and his top administration officials met on March 15 and signed a massive spending bill of $1.5 trillion into law. This package, which funds federal government agencies for fiscal year 2022, boosts military spending and increases discretionary spending for domestic agencies by $6.7 billion, the biggest increase in domestic discretionary spending in the past four years. The spending bill also expands the US government’s brutal deportation machine, with an additional $284.7 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This includes $57 million more funding for ICE’s contentious Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office, which is responsible for detaining and removing immigrants. Overall, the Biden administration is funding ICE with $312 million more than the Donald Trump-era average.
Deportation flights are a big business. Typically these flights are managed by ICE Air Operations – yes, ICE has its own airline. The chain of responsibility runs like this: Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is the entity responsible for deporting people. ERO oversees ICE Air Operations. ICE Air Operations owns none of its own planes. So, ICE signs a contract with a private vendor to coordinate removal flights. The company that has the current contract is Classic Air Charter. For managing ICE Air Operations from October 2017 through the end of September 2022, CAC’s contract is potentially worth $739 million. Classic Air Charters doesn’t actually fly the planes either – that would be too easy.
The purpose of the call is to center the 10 demands that Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and other inside formations have been pushing since the historic 2016 prison strike, encourage people to get involved in local abolitionist organizing, and also gain steam, while building towards the 2022 prison strike that JLS has just announced. So far, people have responded to the call by organizing everything from marches to free political prisoners, film showings, block parties, and noise demonstrations outside of ICE detention facilities, jails, and prisons.
Today, Government Accountability Project, filed its second complaint with federal oversight agencies detailing abuses at the Fort Bliss, Texas Emergency Intake Site (EIS) for unaccompanied immigrant children. Government Accountability Project’s first complaint, dated July 7, 2021, is attached as an exhibit to this second complaint. The Fort Bliss EIS is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The children are in the custody of ORR. Fort Bliss is one of several EISs holding them, ostensibly on a temporary basis. The information disclosed in the second complaint was provided by Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold, current career federal civil servants and attorneys who volunteered to support ORR’s work.
Newark, NJ — Immigrant leaders and immigration justice organizers chained themselves together and blockaded the entrance of the Newark SAC office in response to escalating abuses by ICE. Protesters are calling this unidentified office located in a desolate industrial neighborhood in Newark, NJ an “ICE black site”; and are demanding #ReleasesNotTransfers as detainees continue to be transferred out of New Jersey jails to detention centers across the country and away from their families. Advocates say this Homeland Security Investigations office is where unmarked vans bring detainees and ICE processes all deportations and transfers in the state, a “transfer roulette” brought to a halt by the blockade today.
Washington — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement failed to properly monitor informed consent protocols used by a doctor accused of performing non-consensual gynecological procedures on women detained at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, according to a new report published today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Immigration Project and Project South. The report also highlights other longstanding problems and systemic oversight failures that are currently the focus of several federal investigations of the facility. For years, advocates raised concerns about the mistreatment of immigrants detained at ICDC, a county-owned prison run by LaSalle Corrections that has contracted with ICE to detain immigrants since 2011.
The Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey has been the site of recurring actions in solidarity with detained immigrants. On Tuesday, June 8, one such action ended with cops arresting 14 protesters who were trying to peacefully stop a deportation. The 14 people arrested had camped out at the Bergen County Jail the previous night to try and stop the deportation of Marvin Jerezano Peña, a father from Red Bank, New Jersey who migrated from Mexico to the United States as a child. He had been arrested by ICE and was being held for marijuana possession, something now fully legal in the state. Nevertheless, ICE planned to deport Peña. Protesters at the jail Tuesday bravely blocked an ICE van that afternoon in an attempt to stop the deportation.
The FANG Collective is happy to announce that ICE will be cancelling all contracts with Bristol County, Massachusetts. This includes their 287(g) contract which trains deputies to collaborate with ICE and perform immigration agent duties, and their IGSA contract which turned the Bristol County House of Correction into an ICE detention center. See: Biden administration ends ICE contract with Bristol County Sheriff’s Office amid federal probe into alleged excessive force against immigrant detainees In the summer 2018, FANG launched its Shut Down ICE campaign in Bristol County with a nonviolent direct action that blockaded, and effectively shut down the prison for several hours.
A call to action. National “Shut’em Down” demonstrations August 21st and September 9th. Originally published on the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak blog. Over the last year prisoners across the country have been holding the longest and largest spontaneous demonstrations in response to covid. With approximately 300,000 (the number is possibly as high as 800,000) people in prison having been infected by covid prisoners have continued to demand basic human rights protections. These demonstrations have been sporadic and largely ignored by the public as prisoners and supporters demanded covid safety and precautions be enacted in prisons. In a number of states, these covid demonstrations have turned into widespread and hard fought successful court battles for releasing prisoners.