Things That Matter

Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

Christopher Winton-Stahle / Getty Images

The things that take place behind the doors of detention centers are often a mystery.  Undocumented immigrants disclose some things while immigration officials say another. The media is rarely given a chance to see what the facilities are like, and when they do, they don’t always get the whole picture. That is why advocates of these people are sometimes the only ones that not only get to visit the people inside, but they can also share with the public what is going on. Such is the case with an organization called Freedom for Immigrants who disclosed some incredibly awful events that took place at a detention center. 

This weekend, more than 100 immigrants were attacked inside their detention center while they were protesting with a hunger strike.

 Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit based in California, reports that immigrants detained at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, were attacked with excessive force by guards because they would not disperse during a hunger strike protest. The detention center is located in a remote area in Louisiana less than two hours west of Baton Rouge.

Freedom for Immigrants said that 115 immigrants had been on a hunger strike for five days, protesting their prolonged detainment.

Credit: @UUSC / Twitter

That is when guards pepper-sprayed them, shot at them with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement. They also report that the inmates were blocked from contacting their families or attorneys.

“When an individual in detention goes on hunger strike, it means the person is willing to put their body on the line just to be heard,” Sofia Casini, Southern Regional Coordinator with Freedom for Immigrants, said in a press release. “Multiple hunger strikes happening simultaneously are no coincidence: they are indicative of the desperation and suffering that immigrants are facing inside these human cages.

An ICE spokesperson confirms that the inmates were pepper-sprayed.

Credit: @EMc_42 / Twitter

Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, told BuzzFeed that the incident took place saying, a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening.” He added, “After repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

However, he said that no one was injured, which contradicts the images that were released from the incident.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants notes that several other hunger strikes are taking place at various detention centers around the country, including at another facility in Louisana. They report that at least 1,396 people have taken part in a hunger strike and 18 detention facilities since May 2015.

The assault against immigrants got so bad that an ambulance had to be called.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Mother Jones reports that they can confirm the assault took place as several detainees sent lawyer Lara Nochomovitz text messages. Here’s what some of those messages said: 

“There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them.”

Another said, “There’s even an ambulance here. Help us please this is ugly!” 

Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office told that publication that the incident was only a small disturbance and said the group consisted of only 30 people. He also added that the person that was taken in an ambulance was suffering from anxiety issues. 

People who are imprisoned use hunger strikes to bring attention to the cruelty taking place inside.

Credit: @Haleaziz / Twitter

In some cases, detainees go long periods of stretches in a hunger strike protest, but officials have been known to force-feed them by using tubes. 

They do this to get the attention of officials and of the media to inform them about the injustices that are going on inside. Sometimes it is their only form of communication since they are unable to speak to family. 

Yanet Diaz is the aunt of Lisvani Perez Serrano who was transferred from Mississippi to Louisiana. She told Freedom for Immigrants that he passed his asylum interview and was granted parole. They informed him that he would be released in 15 days, but that never happened. 

“They haven’t informed him about his case, and he is constantly being threatened. He and the other detained men had no other option but to go on hunger strike.”

The National Immigration Law Center said that it is not surprising that ICE hasn’t officially reported about what took place at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairiesince they lack transparency and oversight. They said they are demanding answers and accountability.

READ: Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

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Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

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On Aug. 31 2018, Ramon Torres was pulled over based on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Torres refused to take a breathalyzer test. As a consequence, he was arrested and jailed. The next day, a judge ordered his release, however, he was not immediately let go. Instead, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office placed Torres on an “immigration hold.” 

Torres is originally from Honduras, but arrived to the United States with his family when he was a child. In 2009, he became a naturalized citizen.  

Those who know Torres, attempted to intervene and supplied the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office with documents, such as his birth certificate, social security card, and U.S. passport, proving that he was a citizen. These documents should have been enough to confirm Torres’ citizenship. Yet, their efforts were ignored and he was kept for a total of four days. 

Torres was released only after his friend hired a lawyer. 

“The increasing national rhetoric of fear and racism around immigration is tearing apart our local communities,” said Katie Schwartzman, the legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana. 

This week,  the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a suit on behalf of Torres. According to the suit, Torres was held for immigration review due to the color of his skin and his Latinx sounding name. It is an example of racial profiling, an act that is both illegal and unconstitutional. 

Torres’ Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated. As a result, the ACLU is seeking to award him compensation for his unlawful detention. 

The ACLU is blaming the harmful rhetoric that is currently being spread throughout the country. The line has to be drawn between local law enforcement and federal immigration. Local authorities are there to protect, but time after time, their actions stem from the damaging comments said by government official and their own racial biases. 

As a reminder, it is not the duty of local law authorities to enforce immigration policies, especially when they are unconstitutional and unjust. Law enforcement should be able to recognize when protocols are wrong to conduct and hold each other accountable in order to do their duty to protect their community instead of harming it. 

Immigrant communities are being unfairly targeted, harassed, and terrorized by the very law enforcement agencies that should be protecting them.

According to the suit filed by the ACLU, Torres asked why he was still being held by law enforcement and received a response by an individual who said it was a policy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to automatically hold every Latinx person to conduct a thorough investigation of their immigration status. 

This policy is more than questionable. The intention the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office claims to have is to prove that the people they are holding are U.S. citizens. However, when presented with the right and lawful documents they turn a blind eye. It is not a matter of serving their community. In this case, the deputies are looking to terrorize Latinx folks. It is a tactic that has been used in this country before. For example, sheriff Joe Arpaio who conducted traffic patrols that targeted immigrants in Arizona. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt because of his tough scare-tactics against immigrants, but was pardoned by Donald Trump when he took office. 

What kind of message does that send to local law authorities? For starters, without accountability, people like Arpaio and those at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office know that they can get away with harassing Latinx people because they are backed by an administration that shares their same beliefs. Furthermore, it makes it seem okay for the people in power to bully immigrants into hiding. They are demonstrating that Latinx folks are the ‘other’ and it does not matter if they are citizens or not. We aren’t welcome. 

Policies like the one the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has in place do more harm than good, thus feeding into laws that are rooted in xenophobia.

If it happened to Torres, who is a citizen of the United States, imagine the many people that have to face the same thing every day – some of which may be citizens or are undocumented. People shouldn’t have to worry about carrying multiple forms of identification with them 24/7 or that these documents won’t be enough to support them, but it’s a reality for many due to the unjust profiling that occurs. 

Immigrants are thought of as easy targets, but organizations like the ACLU are attempting to change that by fiercely defending their rights. In their press release, the ACLU states that their goal is to “continue the fight against all forms of anti-immigrant bias and discrimination. The safety and wellbeing of our communities depend on it.” 

Jimmy Kimmel Celebrates Immigrants Of America, Welcomes New US Citizens In Huge Ceremony On TV

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Jimmy Kimmel Celebrates Immigrants Of America, Welcomes New US Citizens In Huge Ceremony On TV

ABC / YouTube

Every single late-night host has gone after President Donald Trump in some way shape or form. Making fun of people in the public eye, especially the president is their job after all. While they did poke fun on former President Barack Obama back in the day, they just have a lot more material to go after Trump. The late-night hosts, however, aren’t just making fun of Trump’s idiotic ways and unstable mentality (because that would be too easy), they’re also telling viewers around the world that the majority of people in the United States do not share his views. It’s important for the hosts to show the distinction between what the president does, says, or tweets, and how everyone else feels by firing back in clever and hilarious ways.  

One of the most vocal dissidents in late-night TV has to be Jimmy Kimmel. The comedian and host has attacked Trump in various ways. He’s gone after him on his inaction on gun reform, his slaughtering of healthcare in the U.S., and even the president’s misspelling of his name. Now Kimmel is taking his anti-Trump material to another inspirational level. 

In response to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, a group of immigrants celebrated their new citizenship to the United States with a heartwarming ceremony on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Credit: YouTube

“This is a very strange time in America,” Kimmel said on his show on Aug. 8. “Our President is building walls and telling people to go back where they came from. With all that happening it’s important to remember that many people still dream of becoming Americans. Every week immigrants from all around the world take the oath of citizenship.”

Kimmel then had six immigrants from various parts of the world come on stage to celebrate their U.S. citizenship, including Jose Alberto Sahagun Ruiz from Mexicali, Mexico. 

Credit: YouTube

Each person walked onstage, and national TV, by being introduced like rockstars by Los Angeles Kings announcer Dave Joseph, and they all held up their new citizenship document. It was really beautiful and inspiring to hear each person’s name be called and their home countries, which includes places such as the Philippines, Argentina, Poland, and others. They all walked out to Neil Diamond’s “We’re Coming To America” song played by Kimmel’s house band, Cleto and the Cletones. 

Then country singer Brad Paisley joined in on the fun by singing a little ballad about what life as an American means.

Credit: YouTube

Paisley kept it light by telling these new American citizens that they can pretty much get away with anything in the United States. But he did so through song.

 “Congratulations citizens,” he sang. “We’re happy that you’re here/ Come on in and take a load off/ Grab yourself an ice-cold beer. You can exercise your freedom of speech/ eat a sticka’ butter at a county fair/ Wear your Crocs with a pair of socks/ Go to Target in your underwear.”

He then finished the song by singing “My Country Tis of Thee.”

This isn’t the first time Kimmel has celebrated new Americans. Last year on Flag Day, he did the same beautiful thing. 

“Every week immigrants from all over the world take the oath of citizenship in courthouses, libraries, and auditoriums across the country, without much pomp or circumstance,” Kimmel said last year. “I think becoming an American shouldn’t feel like a visit to the DMV. It’s a big deal and we think it deserves a big deal.” 

Kimmel’s sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez, then came out dressed like the United States bald eagle and had goody bags for all of them. 

Credit: YouTube

Guillermo gave each new American citizen a goody bag filled with American staples including a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer helmet, apple pies, and fireworks. Then someone dressed as Abraham Lincoln arrived to drive them all in a limo to IHOP, because there’s nothing as American as IHOP, right?

Here’s this year’s new batch of American citizens. Grab some tissue first!

We really hope this celebration of welcoming new Americans into this country becomes a regular segment on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” It’s important for people all over the world to know that people here in the United States are welcoming to newcomers, and this celebration also shows that becoming a citizen of America is a big deal. 

Thanks, Jimmy for making these people feel special and that becoming a U.S. citizen matters. Whatever you do, just don’t get fined for making jokes about Trump. Keep doing it, of course, just make sure it’s not costing you. 

READ: Last year, Jimmy Kimmel Brought DACA Opponents To Meet A DACA/Military Family And Here’s What Happened

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