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SPLC statement about Office of Inspector General report on abuses at immigrant detention centers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently inspected several detention facilities run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency – including the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia – and found numerous instances in which ICE agents mistreated detainees, in violation of DHS standards.

The inspection found that ICE agents improperly punished detainees with solitary confinement, conducted unauthorized strip searches, improperly housed low-risk detainees with high-risk detainees, failed to provide adequate language services, did not treat detainees with respect, deterred them from filing grievances, and provided unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.

The OIG’s report confirms what we have been saying in complaints to the government for over a year, but with little or no response. These facilities fail to ensure the basic rights and safety of people in their custody. They provide inadequate medical care, and unsanitary and unsafe living conditions. Many immigrants languish in detention centers for months or sometimes even years – typically without legal counsel and in violation of their rights – as they await adjudication of their immigration cases.

DHS must stop detaining immigrants in remote facilities where it is unwilling or unable to protect the safety of detainees, and where it cannot ensure that basic health and safety requirements are being met. DHS should also end contracts with providers such as CoreCivic, which manages two of the five facilities highlighted in the OIG’s report.

It’s time for DHS to stop talking about the problems it has acknowledged at its immigrant detention centers, and to take meaningful action to fix them.

In 2016, the SPLC released Shadow Prisons: Immigrant Detention in the South, a report documenting extensive problems at the Stewart Detention Center and five other detention centers in the South.

The SPLC has also filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), describing how judges at Stewart Immigration Court fail to explain basic legal information to immigrants, or even demonstrate the necessary dignity and courtesy the rules of conduct require.

The SPLC's Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) provides pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants at three immigrant detention centers in the Deep South, including the Stewart Detention Center. Learn more about the program and how you can volunteer.