Advocates Seek Answers to Reports of Discriminatory Treatment of Black Immigrants in ICE Detention

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2021—The American Immigration Council and Black Alliance for Just Immigration filed 10 Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain government records about the conditions, treatment, and outcomes Black immigrants face in eight immigration detention facilities throughout U.S. southern states.

The complex network U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses for detention has a long and horrific track record of human rights abuses. Increasingly, individuals in ICE detention are Black or come from majority-Black countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

The FOIA requests—filed with ICE, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and the DHS Office of the Inspector General—seek to uncover what is happening inside immigration detention facilities and how ICE treats incarcerated Black immigrants in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Reports from individuals, advocates, and media provide disturbing evidence that Black immigrants held in ICE custody in these states face especially egregious treatment and conditions. Allegations include retaliation and abuse by officials, inadequate medical care, and other serious human rights and due process violations. 

The records requested from the government include documentation of significant incidents, use of force against individuals in custody, use of solitary confinement, outcomes for medical and mental health requests, and data on detained individuals’ country of origin, detention duration, and release information.

The facilities under scrutiny include Jackson Parish Correctional Center (Louisiana); LaSalle ICE Processing Center (Louisiana); Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center (Louisiana); Winn Correctional Center (Louisiana); Adams County Correctional Center (Mississippi); Prairieland Detention Center (Texas); T. Don Hutto Residential Center (Texas); and West Texas Detention Facility (Texas).  

“There is long-standing evidence that immigration detention is inhumane. Detained individuals have limited access to the outside world and have very few avenues to effectively raise concerns. Black immigrants have experienced violence and coercion around signing deportation documents; discriminatory treatment; and the use of force, threats, and chemical agents in retaliation for peaceful hunger strikes. These incidents, and the detention system that is plagued with human rights issues, warrant close public scrutiny and oversight,” said Victoria Johnson, project manager of transparency at the American Immigration Council.

“For over a decade, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has sought to raise public consciousness around issues impacting Black immigrants in immigration prisons. Yet we continue to see Black immigrants fleeing persecution in their home countries only to be caged and tortured with tear gas, physical violence, and put in solitary confinement in the US. Black immigrants in detention continue to be at the front line of resistance and subsequently retaliation for speaking out against this anti-Black racism and abuses in immigration prisons. We cannot ignore the escalation in violence against Black immigrants, and we must demand community-based alternatives to detention that prioritize the health and wellbeing of communities of color,” said Tsion Gurmu, legal manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. 

Copies of the FOIA requests are here. https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/FOIA/scrutinizing-treatment-and-conditions-black-immigrants-face-detention

Ms. Gretlein strongly agreed with Dr. Mackie about the need to engage children at early ages.  “Don’t wait until high school,” she said. “We have to expose them…to coding and engineering and math and make it fun and make it hands-on.”

Dr. Mackie cautioned that all children today are going to face three options. They are going to take something, break something or make something, he said. “And if we don’t give our kids the education, the skills, the inspiration to make something starting from the cradle” they will find themselves in the criminal justice system. Our children need pathways toward quality jobs and careers, he said, noting that STEM skills can contribute to their success.

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