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Immigrant Advocacy Groups File Civil Rights Complaint Against Constitutional & Disability Rights Violations

Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) on behalf of Mr. Anderson Avisai Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Guatemalan asylum seeker detained at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. Despite an attempt to end his own life and severe mental health disabilities, Mr. Gutierrez has been placed in solitary confinement for over eight months, where his mental health has further deteriorated.

His continued confinement is in violation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own standards, his constitutional rights, and disability law.

“Sometimes you miss taking a shower. You don’t eat, because suddenly they forget about you. They forget to wash your clothes. The light is on day and night. 24 hours a day, every day. You are locked up like an animal on exhibition, since everyone that passes can see you,” wrote Gutierrez, in a letter about his time in solitary confinement. “[The prison] is missing a lot of things for the wellness of human beings.”

“Throughout our weeks of visitation, Mr. Gutierrez has always been courteous and easily engaged. However, he also has appeared to me to be extremely distressed with his prolonged detention and filled with such despair. He has been in detention now for 13 months, eight of them in solitary confinement,” said Jennifer Savage, a volunteer with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention. “He has not received the mental health follow-up he has required.”

“Prolonged solitary confinement is tantamount to torture,” said Sofia Casini, southern regional coordinator at Freedom for Immigrants. “ICE is well aware of the link between solitary confinement and suicide, especially for those struggling with mental health. The fact that ICE ignored every warning sign leading up to an attempt at ending his life and continued to imprison and isolate Mr. Gutierrez after is unacceptable. If he had, in fact, killed himself, it would have been tantamount to murder. This shows the lengths ICE, as well as the private companies who benefit from this system of abuse, will go to imprison rather than releasing people to their families and community who are ready to provide appropriate care."

“The persistent inhumane treatment of Mr. Gutierrez is symptomatic of a system designed to strip people of their humanity,” said Maia Fleischman, law fellow at the SPLC. “ICE knowingly inflicted a severe, irreparable toll on Mr. Gutierrez’s mental health by caging him in solitary confinement for over eight months,” continued Fleischman. “The harmful effects of the denial of adequate treatment and accommodations were compounded each day ICE refused to release him to the point where he attempted to end his life. We call on ICE to release Mr. Gutierrez without further delay, so that he can be reunited with his family and have a chance to heal from this horrific experience.”

"Prolonged solitary confinement amounts to inhuman treatment and it's a serious violation of Mr. Gutierrez’s rights under federal disability laws,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, senior staff attorney at CREEC. “Mr. Gutierrez has the right to receive accommodations for his multiple disabilities, but instead ICE and its subcontractors have chosen to place him in solitary confinement because of those disabilities. ICE's failure to provide accommodations and to place him in a less restrictive environment are reasons enough to grant humanitarian parole so that he can receive appropriate, community-based care that he desperately needs."

Advocates request he be granted immediate release on humanitarian parole so that he may receive appropriate medical and mental health care in an external, community-based setting, and that ICE investigate the abusive solitary confinement practices in place at these facilities.

The full complaint can be viewed here