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ACLU asks Biden admin to shut down ICE detention facilities

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Biden administration to close 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities in a letter Wednesday.

People in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody reportedly experienced sexual abuse, forced sterilization, increased use of force and solitary confinement, according to the organization. The ACLU wants ICE facilities with previous reports of inhumane treatment and those located in remote locations to be closed.

“Closing detention sites should be an easy decision. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted to maintain thousands of empty beds and keep asylum seekers and immigrants in inhumane and life-threatening conditions,” ACLU Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel Naureen Shah said in a statement.

Over 15,000 detainees remain in ICE custody, a 20 year low due to former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACLU reported. ICE currently maintains over 200 detention facilities.

ICE is reportedly spending over $1 million daily to maintain bed space that isn’t in use, the ACLU said in a letter asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to close detention facilities.

Several ICE detention facilities reportedly did not adhere to COVID-19 protocols, provide personal protective equipment or access to testing to detainees, the ACLU reported. Detainees at a Processing Center in Louisiana peacefully protested the facility’s lack of COVID-19 protections and were met with excessive use of force including pepper spray, flash-bang grenades and officials in riot gear.

“People detained at Mesa Verde [a facility in California] allege that they are subjected to persistent retaliation for speaking up about harmful conditions, including raising concerns about the risk posed to them by COVID-19,” the ACLU reported. A massive outbreak occurred at the facility because officials refused to test or quarantine detainees.

An investigation into the Adelanto Detention Center in California found “nooses in cells, detainees with rotting teeth, abuses of disciplinary segregation, and retaliation against detainees who raised concerns about conditions,” the ACLU reported. Several detainees reportedly died due to medical neglect including a man with a brain hemorrhage and dozens who contracted COVID-19, according to the ACLU.

Other facilities reportedly failed to provide detainees medical attention and performed unauthorized operations, the ACLU reported. Female detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia reported “forced hysterectomies” and other involuntary gynecological procedures in September 2020 along with COVID-19 violations.

Detainees who reportedly experienced mental health crises, suicidal ideation or other injuries that required medical treatment from a hospital were subjected to prolonged solitary confinement at multiple facilities, according to the ACLU. Several detainees subjected to solitary confinement reportedly died by suicide, the ACLU reported.

Other facilities violated detainees’ due process by denying access to legal counsel and programs or moving them to other facilities without notifying their attorney, the ACLU reported.

A facility in Florida reportedly forced Muslim detainees to eat pork or rotten food while a facility in Georgia conducted “faith tests” to determine whether a detainee was eligible for a religious meal, the ACLU reported.

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