Things That Matter

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

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

Selena Gomez Offered A Special Commencement Speech To Immigrads Celebrating Their Special Achievement

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Offered A Special Commencement Speech To Immigrads Celebrating Their Special Achievement

selenagomez / Instagram

It is graduation season and Covid-19 has changed how we conduct graduation ceremonies. This year, few high school seniors will be able to walk across the stage as states and counties protect their health and offer graduation alternatives. Celebrities have stepped up to give these seniors special commencement speeches.

Selena Gomez wanted to give immigrads a special commencement speech honoring their experience.

“Congratulations to all of the Immigrads,” Gomez says int he video. “I know that this is a virtual ceremony, but it is very real and it is very real to all of the families, and all of you, and your communities. I want you guys to know that you matter and that your experiences are a huge part of the American story.”

Gomez used her speech to connect with the immigrant graduates by relating to their stories.

“When my family came here from Mexico, they set into motion my American story, as well as theirs,” Gomez says. “I’m a proud third-generation American-Mexican, and my family’s journey and their sacrifices helped me get me to where I am today. Mine is not a unique story. Each and every one of you have a similar tale of becoming an American.”

Gomez gave her address for Define American, an immigrant-led organization.

Define American “is a narrative and culture change organization that uses media and the power of storytelling to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America,” reads the website.

Gomez fans are here to support the singer and her speech.

Gomez has used her platform to confront major topics in American politics and society. She produced “13 Reasons Why” to enter the conversation about teenage suicide and has used her social media platform to celebrate undocumented immigrants chasing the American Dream.

Gomez ended her speech giving all of the immigrads some words of encouragement.

“So, regardless of where your family is from, regardless of your immigration status, you have taken action to earn an education, to make your families proud, and to open up your worlds,” Gomez says. “So, I’m sending all of my love to you guys today, and congratulations, and I hope that you guys are set off to be everything that you want to be.”

READ: TV Special “Graduate Together” Gave The Class Of 2020 A Special Send-Off

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Things That Matter

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Nick Ruiz / Getty

As the Coronavirus spreads throughout communities across the United States, one group of people are at particular risk for contracting the virus: migrant detainees.

Tens of thousands of migrants are packed into crowded detention centers with little access to proper sanitation or medical treatment. Even before the outbreak of Covid19, migrants were facing outbreaks of measles and influenza at greater numbers than the general public.

Now, as they demand information on the risk this new virus poses them, they’re being met with violence.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so have confrontations between detainees and guards.

Credit: DHS / Office Of Inspector General

On Monday, migrants clashed with guards over a lack of safe conditions and demanded to be released from the South Texas Processing Center. The melee led to a standoff and the guards shot pepper spray at the detainees, which ended with nine of the migrants now held for disciplinary charges. The detainees had raised concerns about the lack of screening measures for new arrivals to the complex.

Then, a day later in Louisiana, an ICE spokesman said seven people were pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie detention center. Earlier, an ICE detainee in New Jersey described harrowing conditions and said migrants went on a hunger strike for soap. ProPublica obtained an audio recording in which the detainee said that guards, in response to the strike for hygiene products in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, told the detainees that they “have to die of something.”

The threat faced by detainees in ICE custody is real.

Credit: Grisel Gringis / YouTube

Four people — two correctional officers and two detainees — tested positive for COVID-19 at New Jersey detention facilities.

According to ICE’s guidance, new detainees who arrive at facilities are screened and isolated for a certain period of time if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. The staff is also consulting with local health departments to determine whether there’s a need for testing.

For ICE’s part, they’re defending the use of chemicals against detainees as a necessary tool.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told Mother Jones that pepper spray was used because “four persons became confrontational.” The rest of his statement said:

“The facility was conducting an informational briefing on COVID-19 preparations and safety measures in a detainee housing area to ensure persons in custody have accurate, timely information about the situation,”

As far as the use of force against migrants, he goes on to say: “ICE is tasked with providing safe and secure detention facilities for individuals in its custody. On March 25, at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, a group of ICE detainees became disruptive and confrontational with facility staff in their housing area. Detainees refused to comply with directives from facility staff and four attempted to force their way out of the housing area, at which time facility staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly referred to as ‘OC’ spray. Upon deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff. This immediate use of force was conducted consistent with agency protocol. Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”

Even before the outbreak, ICE was using pepper spray against migrants in its facilities.

Last summer, over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at a Louisiana Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The incident happened after a group of detainees began to protest the conditions they were being forced to endure.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said that a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening,” adding that “after repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, a brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

And this incident came just a day after 30 migrants were sprayed at a separate Louisiana facility. It’s obvious ICE is eager to use pepper spray against detainees in their care.