Posts Tagged ‘ICE detention’

“A Hidden System” and the Human Cost of Detention

July 31, 2008

This video and post from my friends at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees further documents the just plain evil things that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency calls its daily bread. Thanks to the Coalition for their consistency and focus on these issues.

Americans of all stripes are coming together to shine light on the federal government’s failure to uphold basic human rights and due process for immigrants being held in detention. “A Hidden System” is a short video the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) produced to give a face to what’s wrong with our ballooning detention industry.

The video is based on the June 19th Night of 1,000 Conversations vigil and action ICIRR held at the Broadview Detention Center near Chicago. In the wake of expanding enforcement operations, over 100 community members and people of faith came out to protest what they saw as a system out of control. This action was just one example of how people are beginning to speak out against the conditions in which immigrant men and women are being separated from their families, locked up, and denied fair trials.

Linking this drive to last weekend’s rally to shine light on the massive violations that took place in Postville, Iowa, this past May, Marisa Trevino of Latina Lista, writes:

The secretive and isolationist nature of how the federal government conducts deportations and immigrant detentions naturally lends itself to abuse of the system and the erosion of human rights.

In “A Hidden System,” people of faith, activists, attorneys, and community members explore the human cost of a rapidly growing immigrant detention business. The New York Times and the Washington Post have both reported on the untimely deaths of more than 66 men and women who have died in immigrant detention under ICE’s custody. Untold others are being held in unsafe conditions. As difficult as it is to believe, unauthorized workers are routinely denied access to basic rights, such as the ability to make a phone-call home to inform their families that they are being detained.

Roberto Lovato , of Of America, writes:

“Among the principal concerns to be discussed during the nationwide events are what critics say, is nothing less than a “Guantanamization” of migrant detention within the borders of the United States: death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards (many of whom are former military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan); the prolonged and indefinite detention of thousands including children and families denied due process and other fundamental rights as they languish in filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; orange-uniformed detainees sedated with psychotropic drugs, attacked by growling dogs and physically and sexually abused by guards; multi-million government contracts for prison construction and management given to high-powered, military industrial and prison industrial giants like Halliburton and the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, whose former director set up the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility.

While it may be difficult for the average American to imagine all of this happening within our borders, it is also difficult for those who hear about these atrocities to keep quiet.

In the final scenes of “A Hidden System,” Andrea Black, founder of Detention Watch Network, says “When people hear about this, they immediately want to get involved.”

Let’s hope we can get enough people concerned and involved that it forces the federal government to reform a system so horrific that it cannot stay hidden long.

Death by Detention

June 22, 2008

This video by NYC-based Breakthrough-the folks who brought you the ICED video game- should serve as another reminder of the line that distinguishes and will distinguish real immigration reformers from the false profits of immigration.

As we gear up for what will likely be a more favorable climate for immigration policy after November, such videos are most helpful in that they demarcate that line quite clearly. Given the deadly, degenerate turn in U.S. detention policy and practice, any group, including groups calling themselves “pro-immigrant”, ignoring detention issues or any group supporting legislation that worsens enforcement and detention (as in the McCain-Kennedy bill) makes themselves worthy of attack.

It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the right wing extremists for whom promoting pain and death is their daily bread. We shouldn’t allow the false profits to pilfer updated versions of their “trade-off” (legalization for more enforcement) policy, for to do so will only reproduce more of the tragedy of the kind found in the video.

The Guantanamization of Immigrant Detention

June 18, 2008

Imran Ahmad (a pseudonym), a 29 year-old Pakistani computer scientist who can see the Statue of Liberty from his studio apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, says he no longer believes in the symbol of freedom cast in copper. “Freedom is relative. It depends on things like where you’re from and what you look like” says Ahmad. He reached this conclusion, he says, because of what happened to him as a orange-uniformed detainee held for more than 3 years in numerous federal detention facilities: the denial of habeas corpus (his constitutional right to plead his case before a judge), facing growling dogs, watching friends languish and die while in custody, the “subtle torture” of living for months in a tiny, windowless white room while a nearby TV set blared American Idol or “24.”

After a fellow detainee died under mysterious circumstances, which were covered up by detention facility authorities, Ahmad says he was threatened with lines like “We don’t want you to tell or speak to anyone about this” and “We have cameras and people [detainees] who are watching you, monitoring you.” Though Ahmad was released, he is still in deportation proceedings.

Ahmad’s story will not shock anyone familiar with stories of death, violence and other abuse coming out of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other offshore military detention facilities holding men in orange prison uniforms. But what makes his story noteworthy is that it reflects how many of these same offshore practices are now being perpetrated against detainees held within the borders of the United States: the hundreds of thousands of immigrants held in one of the growing number of detention facilities run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), the most militarized branch of the U.S. government besides the Pentagon.

To protest what they consider the increasingly cruel and inhuman conditions and practices in the ICE detention facilities, Ahmad and thousands of activists are organizing the Night of 1000 Conversations, a series of vigils, town halls, house meetings and other events which will take place in over 250 towns and cities across the country on June 19th .

Among the principal concerns to be discussed during the nationwide events are what critics say, is nothing less than a “Guantanamization” of migrant detention within the borders of the United States: death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards (many of whom are former military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan); the prolonged and indefinite detention of thousands including children and families denied due process and other fundamental rights as they languish in filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; orange-uniformed detainees sedated with psychotropic drugs, attacked by growling dogs and physically and sexually abused by guards; multi-million government contracts for prison construction and management given to high-powered, military industrial and prison industrial giants like Halliburton and the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, whose former director set up the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is currently at Guantanamo, outside one of the notorious Military Commission hearings created as a result of the recently rescinded (but still being implemented) law that denied the right to habeas corpus to both military and immigrant facility detainees. Dakwar sees clearly how detention practices on the island have now crept onto detention facilities on the mainland. “The general lack of accountability and oversight, the secrecy, the lack of respect for human dignity for persons held in military and immigration facilities, the lack of legally binding standards regulating treatment of persons in both (military and immigrant) facilities—all of this leads to the abuses we’re now seeing in both” said Dakwar, adding, “In cases of people who die while in custody, for example, the government makes it extremely difficult to impossible to find out who is responsible for conditions that lead to the killing or other loss of life.”

For her part, Dakwar’s ALCU colleague, Amrit Singh, a staff attorney who has worked on different cases involving people detained by the Pentagon in Guantanamo and people held in ICE detention facilities believes that “Noncitizen detainees at home and abroad are part of the same continuum of mistreatment. The dogs used on detainees in the New Jersey [immigrant] detention facilities look very similar to the dogs used on detainees in Abu Ghraib and Iraq.”

In the case of both the military and immigrant detention facilities, says Singh, the Bush Administration has used national security imperatives to deny many of the Freedom of Information Act requests she and her colleagues have filed in their efforts to find out things like how people are being treated in detention, under what conditions did detainees die and what kind of medical treatment they are receiving. Asked about progress towards answering these and other questions, Singh responded, “The answer to these questions are still not being made available to us.”

The connections between abuse and death in military and immigration facilities has also caught the eye of the international community. Singh, Darwit and some of the groups and individuals participating in the Night of 1000 Conversations, will be submitting testimony to a United Nations Special Rapporteur who, in the next two weeks, will visit several U.S. cities as he investigates deaths in both overseas detention facilities and in U.S. prisons and immigration detention facilities.

And, as he prepares to take part in the Night of 1000 Conversations, former detainee Ahmad says he will raise his voice to educate people about what he sees as the primary cause of the abuses he saw while in detention, “Creating guilty people and detention are all about war. I will tell people about how all those arrests, all that abuse are all about war, a war on immigrants.”

GRITtv Interview on Detention, Raids and the Terror of ICE

June 5, 2008

Check out this very fresh interview about a rather rancid subject: death, raids and the terror of ICE. Host Laura Flanders and Maria Muentes of Families for Freedom in New York and Jeanvieve Williams of the U.S. Human Rights Network and I do what I think is a pretty (ICE) smashing job of examining the abysmal depths of the Bush Administration’s most violent bureaucracy outside of the Pentagon. Despite the sad, trauma-inducing gravitas of our subject, Laura, Maria, Jeanvieve and I manage to bring some light and hope to it. As you watch, keep in mind this question: Do Congressional hearings around improving health care get at the problems described?

You can find it here.

Hope you like it.