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September 2017

Gay Asylum Seeker from Ghana Detained in South Texas, Ordered for Deportation Despite Claim to Due Process Violations

An article by the Intercept investigated the story of Sadat Ibrahim, a gay man from Ghana, who is facing deportation from within the South Texas ICE Processing Facility. Ibrahim arrived to the California border to seek asylum after being targeted by vigilante gangs in his community. He was a victim of violence motivated by homophobia while in his home community in Accra, where it is illegal to be gay.

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Ibrahim entered the U.S. through the San Ysidro U.S. border checkpoint between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, where he asked for help and claimed asylum. He was then sent to Georgia and detained in Stewart Detention Center, run by CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA), where he had no access to legal representation. According to The Intercept’s reporting, Ibrahim and his lawyer denounced ICE for withholding critical evidence for his asylum case sent by mail. “They maintain that an immigration judge would not have denied Ibrahim’s asylum claim if that evidence had been delivered,” the article says. Stewart Detention Center has been criticized by outside observers for due process violations, lack of access to legal assistance, and denied delivery of mail — issues seen at the several private CoreCivic-operated facilities in Texas.

Ibrahim has been transferred to South Texas ICE Processing Facility. He reports feeling terrified as deportation proceedings are underway. As an LGBT-identifying individual, he faces increased risk of violence within detention, and an uncertain future under the Trump Administration.

“Advocates also worry about the future of asylum cases for LGBTQ individuals under the new administration. Though Ibrahim’s due process disaster took place under Barack Obama, and the decision to deny him asylum was handed down less than a week after Trump became president, the new administration’s actions show a pattern of disregard for international LGBTQ rights,” the article states.

 

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Trump Pushing to Expand Operation Streamline and Migrant Incarceration in Private Prisons

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President Trump is pushing to expand Operation Streamline, a federal procedure to prosecute immigrants en masse with the federal crime of improper entry, reports the Houston Chronicle. While the first entry is charged as a misdemeanor, improper re-entry is charged as a felony with up to 20 years in prison. The Trump administration plans to expand the existence of this court procedure to California. Immigrants convicted in Operation Streamline and other federal court proceedings for immigration accounted for over half of federal criminal convictions in 2016. According to the Houston Chronicle, “By 2013, misdemeanor and felony prosecutions for crossing the border had skyrocketed to more than 91,200 cases, a 500 percent increase from 2003.” Those convicted are incarcerated in privately-operated Bureau of Prison facilities, most of which are located in Texas.

The government renamed Operation Streamline as Criminal Consequence Initiative last year. Since its inception in 2005, it has cost an estimated $7 billion according to Indefensible, the book published by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies on the topic.

The criminal conviction of a prison sentence is intended to deter migrants from crossing the border, which ICE claims has lessened border crossings. According to the article by the Houston Chronicle, “The Government Accountability Office, however, has found problems with the agency's methodology, suggesting return rates basically remained unchanged when measuring over a more realistic time frame of three years and excluding immigrants who stayed in the United States in that period.”

The article further cites advocates’ denouncing of the program as a violation of immigrants’ due process rights, particularly for those seeking to claim asylum. “Both the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Human Rights First, a national non-profit, have documented dozens of instances in which Customs and Border Protection officers wrongly didn't refer migrants for asylum interviews or pressured them into withdrawing their requests,” the article reports.

The push to expand Operation Streamline would likely lead to the construction of more private prisons under the Trump administration. Operation Streamline and associated felony prosecutions have driven contracts for 13 new privately operated “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons from 2000-2013, according to Grassroots Leadership.

Immigrant Death in Detention Marks 12th This Year Under ICE Custody

According to reporting by Rewire, a recent report indicates that the number of deaths in detention is on track to be the highest in six years in Fiscal Year 2017. Rewire reported the recent death of Felipe Almazan-Ruiz in Texas on September 17, 2017 as the twelth death this year under ICE custody. The deaths bring attention to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s lack of medical care and neglect of detainees, as national reports have indicated a public health crisis.

Almazan-Ruiz was being held at IAH Secure Adult Detention Center, in Livingston, Texas, a facility operated by Management & Training Corporation. Activists have repeatedly called for the closure of this facility, known as Polk County Detention Center, for its restricted and inadequate access to medical care among other humanitarian reasons. The facility is notorious for detaining immigrants in dangerous conditions.

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Almazan-Ruiz was transferred to Polk County from Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. According to ICE, he died of cardiac arrest after being admitted for treatment of cirrhosis of the liver. He was transferred to Livingston Memorial hospital and then to the Conroe Regional Medical Center.

Grassroots Leadership issued a press release in response to Almazan-Ruiz’s death. “Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.  “Given the high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas, it is outrageous that the Trump administration is planning a massive new for-profit detention center down the road in Conroe.”  

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Rep. Lloyd Doggett Investigates Treatment of Prisoners during Hurricane Harvey

Photo by NASA/Randy Bresnik

 

Rep. Lloyd Doggett has submitted an inquiry to the Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding the treatment of prisoners in Beaumont facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune. This inquiry came once advocates received testimonies from prisoners that they were denied food, water, and sanitation during and following the storm. As the Federal Bureau of Prisons chose not to evacuate the Beaumont prisoners, this inquiry exposes the human rights abuses that occur in both privately and publically operated Bureau of Prison facilities. When the Bureau of Prisons denied that the facility had flooded, Grassroots Leadership organizer Jorge Renaud advocated for leaders to “default on the side of the vulnerable populations.” He said, “When things rise of the level of someone actually being woken up to say something about a condition ... and is willing to go on the record, it’s usually indicative of quite a few more inside who are actually experiencing the same stuff.”

This incident recalls the treatment of detainees in private detention facilities during Hurricane Dolly in 2008, when 1,000 detainees at Willacy Detention Center were not evacuated. Those who were evacuated were denied adequate housing, food, access to legal counsel and communications, and protection from the elements.

The treatment of prisoners in Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey raises concern for the immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in private detention centers along the Texas coast, including Karnes County family detention center  and Brooks County Detention Center operated by GEO Group. Detainees were not reported to have been evacuated, leaving them in the path of the historic and devastating storm.

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