Things That Matter

This US Citizen Was Just Released From ICE Custody Where He Was Detained For More Than Three Weeks And Like How Is This Happening?

An American teenager who was detained by U.S. immigration authorities for almost a month, despite being a citizen, was finally released on Tuesday. Francisco Erwin Galicia, 18, who was born in Dallas, Texas, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that he called “inhumane”. Galicia says he lost over 25 pounds during his time in a Texas immigrant detention center because officers there didn’t give him enough food. The conditions were so bad he reportedly almost opted to self-deport himself. 

So how did a legal U.S. citizen get detained by border officials and for this long?

Credit: @Qasimrashid / Twitter

Francisco had been traveling with a group of friends and his 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and does not have legal status, from Southern Texas to Ranger College for a soccer event back on June 27th. That afternoon, the group came across a border patrol checkpoint where they were asked for documentation.

Marlon said he had passed through previous checkpoints without having to present paperwork but immigration agents handled things stricter this time around. While Marlon only had his had his school ID, Francisco had a Texas ID, a Social Security card, and his birth certificate. But that still wasn’t enough. 

According to CBS News, Francisco was detained because he did not have his passport and CBP agents suspected that his documents were forged. After collecting his fingerprints, they found out that Francisco had a U.S. tourist visa in his name that read that his birthplace was in Mexico. 

“They thought they were fake,” Francisco told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA in an interview Tuesday. “I had all my papers, but they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know the reason why.”

His mother Sanjuana, who is an undocumented citizen, had gotten him the visa while he was still a minor and falsely listed his birthplace because she thought it was the only way he could travel to Mexico to visit family.

The brothers would eventually get separated and Francisco would be sent to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. 

Credit: @weau13news / Twitter

Marlon would sign a voluntary deportation form after two days in detention and would be placed with his grandmother in Mexico. But his brother would stay under CBP custody for three more weeks where he would endure harsh conditions. Despite Francisco’s lawyer, Claudia Galan, bringing the necessary documentation, including his birth certificate, to border officials, he was not released. The reasoning was the conflicting paperwork he originally presented. 

At the detention facility, Francisco was not allowed to make phone calls or even shower. “I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything’,” Francisco Galicia told the Dallas News.

Things would only get worse from there for Francisco.

Credit: @marshallproject / Twitter

Francisco described to the Dallas News about the conditions in CBP detention and how bad things got during his more than three week stay there. He says he heard about the tough conditions on TV but was completely different to go through it himself. 

“It’s one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news. It’s another to go through them,” Galicia said.

He says he was crammed into an overcrowded holding area with 60 other men and all had to sleep on the floor and were given only aluminum-foil blankets as cover. Some men even slept on the bathroom floor. They were also bitten by ticks and many got sick throughout his stay. He said that many of the men were too afraid to ask officers to see a doctor because they said they had been told their stay would “start over” if they did.

After a total of 23 days in detention in CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, Francisco was finally released this past Tuesday. Now, many are looking for answers not only about his detention but the horrid conditions the 18-year-old described.

Credit: @lauraswift79 / Twitter

CBP and ICE officials have yet to respond to Galicia’s claims of poor conditions at the holding facility but did issue a joint statement Wednesday about detaining him. 

“Generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify,” the statement read. “While we continue to research the facts of the situation, this individual has been released from ICE custody. Both CBP and ICE are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody and continue to take appropriate steps to verify all facts of this situation.”

Many on social media were angry to find out the conditions in the detention facilities. One user on Twitter questioned how this could happen, especially to a legal U.S. citizen. 

“This is heartbreaking & ridiculous!  How can we treat other human beings this way & be okay with it?!?!?!  Makes me sick to my stomach.  #humanityFirst  Francisco Erwin Galicia says he wasn’t allowed to shower for 23 days in ICE custody.”

Despite all this, Francisco’s mother said she’s just glad to have her son back home with his family. 

“I’m just so thankful to God and to everyone who spoke up about my son’s situation. she said. “I’m glad to have him back home, but I need my other son back.”

READ: An Autopsy Reveals Harrowing New Details About A Guatemalan Teen Who Died In Border Patrol Custody

California Passed A Ban On For-Profit Immigrant Detention Centers But It Looks Like ICE Is Ignoring The New Law

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California Passed A Ban On For-Profit Immigrant Detention Centers But It Looks Like ICE Is Ignoring The New Law

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.”

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

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

Nick Kroom / AP

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.