ICE quits using Louisiana jail criticized in reports for abusive tactics against detainees

NEW YORK, NY  - JULY 12: Hundreds of people gather in lower Manhattan for a "Lights for Liberty" protest against migrant detention camps and the impending raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this coming weekend in various cities on July 12, 2019 in New York City. Fear is increasing in many immigrant neighborhoods as ICE is scheduled to begin rounding up illegal immigrants in cities across the nation starting on Sunday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stopped using a Louisiana jail to hold their detainees since Mother Jones’ August report revealing that officials there had beaten and pepper-sprayed a number of asylum-seekers who were protesting their ongoing jailing. “The Nakamoto Group, the company ICE pays to inspect detention centers, concluded in a December report that force was used against at least one detainee during the August protest,” Mother Jones reported. In fact, Nakamoto Group’s report concluded “Force was utilized on this detainee while he was unconscious, and a review of the video evidence revealed that it was a clearly inappropriate application of force.”

As Mother Jones points out, the report detailed a “bleak picture of life” at Bossier Parish Corrections Center, which is operated by the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office. “Citing budgetary concerns, the facility does not adhere to the provisions of the standards in a number of different areas,” the Nakamoto Group report said, including lack of access to basic hygiene items, lack of access to a piece of paper to write family, lack of access to a “sufficient number of medical staff, which is cited as the reason they do not conduct physical examinations or offer chronic care services.”

“These services and items are generally considered to be standard provisions, financed by the negotiated per diem rates; it appears to be considered otherwise by this agency,” the report continued. “Detainees were, in general, vocal and inconsolable regarding their immigration situations. They complained, almost unanimously, about the lack of information from the courts; lack of attention from ICE officers; and lack of knowledge regarding deportation status. The frustration level in every housing unit was high, but detainees for the most part were respectful to inspectors during the inspection.”

ICE has in fact detained more people in remote areas on purpose, because it makes it easier to deport them. “That is a mounting concern for those who advocate on behalf of immigrants, because detainees in rural areas are facing higher barriers to obtaining a lawyer, more likely to have their asylum cases denied and more likely to be deported to their home countries,” NPR reported last year. ICE has also made it harder for them to be released to family or sponsors, which has left desperate asylum-seekers forced to carry out life-threatening hunger strikes to protest their detention, or protest in other ways, like the detainees at Bossier Parish Corrections Center.

“An ICE spokesman did not respond to inquiries about whether the agency’s decision to stop using the jail was related to the problems identified by the Nakamoto Group. Louisiana attorneys had heard rumors that ICE planned to stop using the jail prior to the inspection,” Mother Jones continued. “Across the country, the number of people detained by ICE has fallen from a record high of more than 55,000 to 39,983 at the start of the month, though that’s still about 5,000 more than at the end of the Obama administration.”

Down is the correct direction and it needs to keep going that way, but the administration is now seeking to ramp that up to 60,000, which would be yet another record. We need to stop it—along with all rampant abuse against detained people regardless of immigration status.

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