Things That Matter

ICE Continues To Send Migrants To Private Prisons Where Cruelty Is The Norm

One of the services traditionally provided and operated by the State is security and correctional facilities. Traditional modern democracies are arranged in such a way that governments provide these services, and run them. However, neoliberal policies instituted during the 1980s, when people like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were in power, have translated into an increased privatization of these types of services. Basically, arresting and locking people up is a big and very profitable business. 

In the past few years ICE has captured hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and people looking to enter the United States as refugees.

Many regions of the world are literally on fire. Gang warfare has spread like an epidemic in Central America, Mexico is still fighting a seemingly endless war against the drug cartels, African migrants are trying to get to America after Europe has proven to be hostile territory, the Middle East continues to suffer from endless conflict… and the list goes on and on.

The United States Customs and Border Patrol has been increasingly tough during the Trump administration, and the number of detainees of all ages and genders is increasing. Enter private correctional facilities, with which ICE has struck deals. The number of arrested migrants is huge.

According to The Washington Post: “The number of migrants taken into custody along the southern U.S. border soared to nearly 1 million during the government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data released Tuesday.”

Enter LaSalle Corrections, which has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons: detainees have been committing suicide in their facilities, including a Cuban man named Roylan Hernandez-Diaz.

ICE has to take all these people somewhere, and it has chosen a company that is infamous for its alleged malpractices: LaSalle Corrections, which operates out of Louisiana. This company was founded in 1997 by a former nursing home owner who had experience in running facilities where people are kept under strict disciplinary control.

During the Trump administration eight contracts have been drawn with the service provider. This past month Roylan Hernandez-Diaz,  a 43-year-old Cuban man killed himself in his cell after the immigration court told him he needed to provide more information relating to the political attacks he would face if he returned to his homeland. 

Hernandez-Diaz was angry at his legal situation, but also at the conditions in the jail where he had been kept.

The Washington Post reported on October 21: “Hernandez-Diaz, the second detainee to die in ICE custody this month, has a backstory that points to several new realities in the immigration system: An influx of Cubans, who are stuck in detention due to policy changes during the Obama administration. An increasing reliance by ICE on rural jails in Louisiana, where detainees charge they have been kept for months on end. And reports of deaths, suicide attempts, and hunger strikes from those detainees.”

It does sound like a very precarious situation, particularly given the fact that these people are not criminals in the traditional sense. 

Think Orange is the New Black but much worse and real life.

Credit: Orange Is The New Black / Netflix

Viewers of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black might get an idea of what the privatization of correctional facilities and the use of these by ICE means for actual human beings. Of course the show was a romanticized version of reality, and we are sure that the brick and mortar versions of these prisons are much worse. This is what happens when the lives or human beings are assigned a number in terms of profit, and when companies make a a buck out of suffering. 

Abusive guards, moldy food, LaSalle’s facilities seem to be hell on Earth.

As The Washington Post reports: “Nathalia Rocha Dickson, a Louisiana immigration lawyer, said conditions in these facilities are dire: Guards who don’t speak Spanish and who are largely untrained, rotating in and out. Tasteless food served at strict meal times, and a commissary that’s expensive or is unavailable entirely”. Yuselys, a Cuban woman detained in one of these places told VICE: ““All of the people who are detained there are suffering. They’re anxious, they’re depressed, they lay in bed all day and don’t want to get up for anything because of how depressed they are”. It sounds como un infierno en vida. 

Guards working for LaSalle have been found guilty of brutal practices.

Guards at one of the correctional facilities operated by LaSalle, a place called Richmond, were found guilty of pepper spraying inmates who were handcuffed and kneeling down. This happened when Richmond was holding civil offenders, not migrants. However, critics say that their practices have not changed much, and that there are other red flags such as the lack of medical support based of financial reasons. The philosophy seems to be: if it is gonna cost us, then you are on your own. 

ICE Might Be Ignoring California’s Ban On Private Immigration Detention Centers

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ICE Might Be Ignoring California’s Ban On Private Immigration Detention Centers

Ronen Tivony / ZUMA

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted a request for new private migrant detention centers in California, a mere five days after Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill effectively banning such detention facilities. 

California is the first state to ban privately-run, for-profit immigration detention centers popular with the Trump administration. The new law will also ban private prisons and put a stop on new contracts after January 1, 2020, along with phasing out existing detention centers by 2028, according to the LA Times

However, on October 16, ICE posted a request for offers on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website to open up at least four new for-profit detention centers. Legislators and advocates believe ICE is attempting tp circumvent the law before the new year’s deadline by rushing new contracts through. 

Senator Kamala Harris calls out ICE’s controversial tactic.

“Let’s be clear: By rushing through new contracts before California’s ban takes effect, ICE is violating the spirit of California law and risks wasting taxpayer dollars in an attempt to lock away even more human beings,” said California Senator Kamala Harris. “We need to fight back.” 

In ICE’s request, according to Mother Jones’ review of FBO documents, they’re looking for “turnkey ready” detention centers in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles for “the exclusive use of ICE and the ICE detainee population.” ICE wants approximately 6,750 beds spread across the four facilities with contracts that would last five to 15 years. 

“The facilities shall be turnkey ready at the beginning of contract performance and able to provide housing, medical care, transportation, guard services, meals, and the day to day needs for ICE detainees,” the FBO solicitation says. “Due to mission needs, proposals for new construction will not be accepted for this solicitation.”

ICE already has four privately-run detention centers in California. 

“I’m not prepared to allow ICE to improperly violate AB 32 and hurt Californians,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta who wrote the bill. 

ICE has tried to undermine’s California’s status as a sanctuary city before.

“ICE is doing everything they can to circumvent California law,” Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, told the Desert Sun. “It’s not surprising that ICE is doing this.”

It may not come as a surprise to Shah because ICE has used unscrupulous tactics before. Adelanto, the second-largest detention center in the country, was independently owned by GEO Group. When the city terminated its contract with ICE and GEO, the very next day ICE organized a deal directly with GEO, last June.

According to Desert Sun, “A September 2018 report from Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General found significant health and safety risks at Adelanto, including the issue of detainees hanging nooses made from bedsheets. At least three inmates have died at the facility since 2015 and seven inmates attempted suicide between December 2016 and October 2017.”

ICE criticizes California’s new law. 

ICE spokesperson Lori Haley claimed the only people that will suffer from the ban are California residents. 

“If this law takes effect, ICE would simply have to transfer individuals a greater distance from their arrest location to other facilities outside the state,” the agency said. “Thus, the impact would be felt by residents of California who would be forced to travel greater distances to visit friends and family in custody, and not by ICE.”

Advocates might say that convenience isn’t the issue at hand when it comes to for-profit detention centers. Nevertheless, Hamid Yazdan Panah, an immigration lawyer in the Bay Area claims that the rush to push through contracts might be evidence ICE has realized it won’t be too easy to transport migrants states and that they would actually have to detain fewer people, according to the LA Times. 

“They pick people up at certain points, have to process them and get them to a detention facility usually by evening,” he said. “The reality is they have a lot of protocols they have to go through and manpower considerations they have to deal with.”

For-profit immigration centers have got to go according to advocates. 

Over 70 percent of detained migrants are held in privately owned facilities, like GEO Group and CoreCivic. The Hill found that both organizations donated to Trump’s presidential campaign in 2017, then received $985 million in contracts with ICE. 

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found food safety issues, nooses, restrictive segregation practices, and unreported security incidents ran rampant at private detention centers, who are known to cut corners because they are businesses. Instead of holding the owners or managers of these facilities responsible with the usual financial penalties, the IG suggested ICE waived such fees and allowed the conditions to continue. 

“These twisted somersaults to push and bend federal protocols are a sign of desperation,” Bonta said. “It’s what you’d expect from a dying industry.”

His Family Begged ICE To Keep Him On Life Support Until They Could Say Goodbye But The Agency Didn’t Listen

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His Family Begged ICE To Keep Him On Life Support Until They Could Say Goodbye But The Agency Didn’t Listen

CoreCivic

Though much of the nation’s attention has focused on the plight of migrants crammed into overcrowded Customs and Border Protection facilities along the southern border, Abienwi’s case highlights concerns over the immigration detention system in the interior of the U.S.

ICE detains more than 52,000 migrants a day in a sprawling network of 225 detention centers and jails spread throughout the country. Government watchdogs have highlighted problems in those facilities, including nooses found in cells, detainees on hunger strikes and substandard medical care.

Abienwi is the ninth migrant to die in ICE custody over the past year, according to ICE data. His family and supporters said they want to know how that could’ve happened to a healthy man who had no medical problems before his confinement in the USA

An asylum-seeking migrant detained by ICE was pulled off life support after his relatives said they requested that doctors continue the lifesaving measures.

ICE said Nebane Abienwi, a father of six, died Oct. 1 after being detained at San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Center following a “medical emergency.” Since then, his relatives have reportedly been unable to obtain all the information about his death they have requested and his brother has twice been denied a visa to travel overseas to identify the body and bring it home.

His relatives say the move transpired despite their requests that life support be continued, according to USA Today.

“We did not approve” Abienwi’s removal from a ventilator, his brother Akongnwi, who requested he be identified only by his last name, told USA Today. “One hundred percent, we did not.”

More than a month later, the man’s body remains in the USA.

His relatives said they have been given little information about his death, and his brother has twice been denied a visa to travel to the USA to identify the body and accompany it back home to Cameroon.

Ever since, Abienwi’s youngest brother said he has been scrambling between U.S. embassies in South Africa and Cameroon, pleading for a visa to travel to California to get some answers.

He said he wants to make sure it’s really his brother’s body and to perform cultural rites on the body before the casket is sealed. He wants to know why doctors removed the ventilator that kept his brother breathing after he asked them to keep it in place until a relative could arrive.

Abienwi died after becoming critically ill while in ICE custody and was placed on a ventilator.

Akongnwi, speaking from a hotel room in Cameroon on Monday, said he spoke by phone with ICE officials several times Sept. 30, when they first called to say his brother had become critically ill and was on a ventilator. He said the ICE officials passed the phone to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center officials, who explained that his brother was bleeding profusely in his brain and a ventilator was the only thing keeping him breathing.

Akongnwi said he shared the information with his brother’s wife and others in the family, and they all agreed Abienwi should be maintained on life support until a relative could be by his side.

“The family spoke and said, ‘We believe in miracles. It has happened to other families, why not ours?’ ” Akongnwi said. During the next call with ICE, “I made clear that he should remain like that and the family would decide if we want to take him off that machine or not.”

report released by ICE detailed what happened next.

On Oct. 1, at 12:05 p.m., two doctors analyzed Abienwi’s examination results, concluding they “were consistent with brain death and pronounced him dead.” Thirty minutes later, Abienwi’s family was notified, according to the report. Two hours later, hospital staff “discontinued Mr. Abienwi’s ventilator support,” the report said.

Akongnwi, who was in the process of submitting his passport information to U.S. officials and planning to fly to California, said he was never informed that his brother was taken off life support. He said he learned of that decision only when contacted by a reporter who shared ICE’s summary of the case.

“They said, ‘It’s very unfortunate, but your brother didn’t make it,’ ” he said. 

Sadly, this isn’t the first time this migrant detention center has been accused of substandard care.

The Otay Mesa facility, which is owned and operated by the private company CoreCivic, has been accused of not adequately addressing detainees’ health issues in the past. In February, more than 70 detainees in the facility signed a letter saying they had experienced racism and medical neglect at the facility.

The internal ICE report regarding Abienwi’s death shows that Abienwi, who’d already suffered from hypertension before being put in ICE custody, fell off his bunk bed on Sept. 26. After the fall, he appeared to be confused and sweating, and had difficulty moving his left arm and leg, the report says. Doctors initially concluded that he was fine, aside from having elevated blood pressure, but a subsequent exam found that he was suffering from internal bleeding.