Things That Matter

ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.

While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.

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According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.

Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.

The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.

The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.

The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.

According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.

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Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.

According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.

While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.

According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.

In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.

The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.

“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

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ICE Says They Rescued A Mother And Her Newborn But Then They Turned Around And Separated Them

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ICE Says They Rescued A Mother And Her Newborn But Then They Turned Around And Separated Them

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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had recently released a story about how border agents had ‘rescued’ a woman and her newborn baby in the middle of the Texas desert. In their release, they detailed how the pair were provided with immediate medical treatment, however, they failed to mention that the mother was immediately separated from her newborn.

As the case gains more attention, immigration advocates and legal officials are coming forward with new details in the woman’s case and it’s helping to paint a very different picture from the one given by border officials.

New details are emerging after ICE said they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor.

An entirely new picture is emerging regarding a story put out by ICE itself saying they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor. However, ICE officials forgot to mention one very important detail – just hours after their supposed rescue – they separated the woman from her newborn baby and detained her pending her possible removal from the country.

According to the ICE press release, border agents responded to a 911 call and found the woman soon after she had delivered her baby alone in a field near Eagle Pass, Texas. Officials first transported the mother and child to a nearby hospital, then the baby was airlifted to a neonatal care unit hours from where the mother was being held in custody.

“They told her she was going to be sent back to Mexico without her baby,” according to Amy Maldonado, who is legally representing the mother, and spoke to the LA Times.

The mother and baby have since been reunited but a legal process is still playing out regarding their future.

It wasn’t until the LA Times published a story about what had happened that ICE released the mother from custody, and she was reunited with her baby in San Antonio.

According to Austin Skero, chief patrol agent for the Del Rio sector, who responded in a tweet to The Times, agents had to separate the mother and baby due to the San Antonio hospital’s COVID-19 policy for the neonatal unit, which the hospital immediately disputed.

Leni Kirkman, representative for University Hospital in San Antonio, told The Times in an interview the statements were not correct. 

“That is definitely not the hospital policy,” she said. “We do not separate babies and parents.”

Even during a surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas, “which fortunately we’re not in now,” she said, “the parents of NICU babies got to be with their baby. That was not something we backed off on. Babies need to be with their parents.”

Not surprisingly, ICE has a history of separating mothers from their newborn and nursing children.

Sadly, there are many stories of mothers being torn apart from their children – including those who still require breastfeeding.

Last year, following the ICE raids of processing plants in Mississippi, details emerged of a mother who picked up by ICE and unable to see her 4-month-old daughte, who she was still nursing – and who herself is a U.S. citizen.

Advocates also report that some asylum seekers in the Texas who have given birth in ICE custody were forced to hand over their newborns to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Reuniting with their newborn hinges on their release from federal custody, and whether they can access legal help to navigate the child welfare system.

Last year, DFPS attempted to place a detained woman’s newborn in foster care. The woman “cried for 72 hours straight,” a Texas OB-GYN told Rewire.News. The OB-GYN held the woman at the hospital for five days so that she could see a psychologist.

“I was worried she was going to hurt herself when they took her back to the detention center,” the doctor said. “Luckily in her case, they were eventually able to locate an aunt-in-law, her uncle’s wife, who lived in Chicago. But this wasn’t a blood relative, and it wasn’t someone she’d ever met before.”

The mother of the newborn had attempted to seek asylum in the U.S. but was forced to stay in Mexico.

The mother picked up by ICE with her newborn, whose name has not been released, had recently applied for asylum at the border earlier this year with her older child, who is 6-years-old, but officials put them into the controversial “Remain In Mexico” program.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (or MPP) sent them back to Mexico to wait until their asylum hearing. Under MPP, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been forced back to dangerous Mexican border towns to await hearings in the United States, some for more than a year. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration closed the U.S.-Mexico border in March to all nonessential travel and indefinitely postponed most MPP hearings. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Homeland Security Department over its “treatment of pregnant people, or people in active labor, delivery, or post-delivery recuperation in CBP custody or subject to the MPP,” and called for an investigation into returning pregnant women to Mexico under MPP.

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

Smith Gado / Getty Images

Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

Credit: Smith Gado / Getty Images

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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