A government watchdog has requested Immigration and Customs Enforcement turn over internal documents dating back to 2017, following allegations in a civil rights complaint that taxpayer-funded agents and private prison guards at CoreCivic’s Adams County Correctional Center camp in Mississippi tortured Black immigrants to coerce them into deportation. ICE subsequently attempted to deport some of those men.
“Obtaining these documents would shed light on these detainees’ experiences at ACCC and ICE’s responsibility in these grave human rights violations,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said, seeking years-worth of documents under the Freedom of Information Act for evidence of other similar abuse by officials. “ICE must be held accountable for their failure to protect detained asylum seekers from enduring patterns of coercion and physical abuse.”
The civil rights complaint, filed by groups led by Freedom for Immigrants, described “coercive tactics, including threats of violence and direct physical abuse to obtain submission, forced taking of fingerprints while individuals are in restraint, and the use of pepper spray against those who decline to sign their deportation papers.” One man was reportedly left with several broken fingers.
“These reports again raise serious concerns about human rights violations and abusive treatment within ICE facilities,” CREW said. “The testimonies follow those of others who have been subjected to abusive treatment and inhumane living conditions under the care of ICE, and it appears the agency continues to violate the rights of immigrants despite the release of official reports demonstrating the need to improve detainees’ living conditions and the public outrage toward forced hysterectomies performed in Georgia.”
Like in the case of Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants at ACCC, ICE has also tried to deport detained immigrant women mistreated by this doctor.
“Freedom for Immigrants has claimed ICE has been increasing deportations leading up to the 2020 presidential election as part of ‘an effort to silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability,’” CREW continued. “After reportedly losing records connecting detained immigrant children to their parents and attempting to destroy records on abuses reported by detainees earlier this year, it’s clear ICE has no reservations about covering its tracks to avoid accountability for its patterns of human rights abuses.”
House Democrats including Veronica Escobar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, Alan Lowenthal, and Mary Gay Scanlon last month called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an investigation into a “clear pattern of alleged human rights violations” committed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), writing that “[a]ll countries, regardless of size, power, or international standing must respect the human rights of all people and the United States is no exception.”
But DHS has consistently believed it’s accountable to no one, and as CREW noted, has sought to press delete on its paper trail. In addition to ICE, Customs and Border Protection, among the most corrupt law enforcement agencies in the nation, has also sought the green light to destroy internal documents, including records concerning alleged misconduct. “CBP misconduct often only becomes public via leaks, investigative reporting, or lawsuits,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in October, “meaning the loss of internal records could forever bury unknown abuses.”
“Obtaining these documents would shed light on these detainees’ experiences at ACCC and ICE’s responsibility in these grave human rights violations,” CREW said. “ICE must be held accountable for their failure to protect detained asylum seekers from enduring patterns of coercion and physical abuse.”