“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

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.

Photo from Flickr


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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ICE wants permission to destroy records of immigrant abuse

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants approval for its timetable on retaining or destroying records related to detention operations, reports the ACLU.

 

ICE reached out to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which decides how federal agencies maintain their records. ICE wishes to change their policy on destroying 11 types of records including sexual assaults, solitary confinement, and deaths of individuals in custody. ICE proposed destroying records of sexual assault and death records after 20 years, and proposed destroying records of solitary confinement after three years.

 

NARA has given provisional approval to ICE for their policy changes. NARA gave various reasons for the approval, stating that sexual assaults and deaths in custody "do not document significant actions of Federal officials." This is obviously incorrect, seeing as there have been multiple cases of sexual assaults in public and private facilities that contract with ICE. The agency also stated that information related to sexual assaults is "highly sensitive and does not warrant retention."

 

Maintaining these records is vital, as they are often the only way for the public to understand and monitor an immigration detention system that is notoriously inhumane. With private prisons expanding under the Trump administration, it is more important than ever to maintain strict records that expose the mistreatment and injustice inside immigrant detention centers.

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As Hurricane Harvey approaches, ICE abandons over 50 women & children at a bus station

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) abandoned about 50 immigrant women and children at a bus station in San Antonio, reports the Rivard Report.

 

The 50 women and children were all Central Americans who had come to the U.S. seeking asylum. Once they arrived to the U.S. border, they were taken to family detention centers while their asylum cases were processed. These private detention centers are run by for-profit corporations, who contract with ICE to operate the facilities. ICE ordered the women taken to the bus station in San Antonio on Friday as Hurricane Harvey made its approach to the Texas coast. Due to the weather advisory caused by Hurricane Harvey, all buses from the station were cancelled, leaving the women and children abandoned in worsening conditions.

 

The Interfaith Welcome Coalition of San Antonio contacted various non-profits in the area, who helped find a church that welcomed in the women and children. Congressman Lloyd Doggett also spoke with ICE, saying "This is all really unacceptable. We need greatly improved communication and more attention to genuine humanitarian concerns."

 

This was not the only mishap by immigration officials in Texas as they responded to Hurricane Harvey. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced before the hurricane that they would be leaving their checkpoints north of the border open, leading to an increase of fear for individuals fleeing from Hurricane Harvey.

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