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Immigrant Rights Groups File Civil Rights Complaint Calling for a Halt and Investigation of Racist Practices at Louisiana ICE Prison

As Black and Cameroonian asylum seekers fight for liberation in ICE detention, new complaint details anti-Blackness, use of force and disparate outcomes at Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the peaceful protest of Black asylum seekers held at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, the Cameroonian American Council (CAC), Freedom for Immigrants, ISLA Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a complaint with the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) calling on the agency to immediately halt and investigate the violence and discriminatory practices against Black asylum seekers and for their immediate release from solitary confinement.

On August 10, 2020, Cameroonian asylum seekers at Pine Prairie staged a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, racist treatment from prison staff, and inhumane conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, prison officials used unnecessary lethal force to place them in choke holds, pointed a gun at them and told the men they were going to be placed in solitary confinement. 

“We have t-shirts of Black Lives Matters, and they took them away from us – even the ones we bought from commissary with our money, and they took them from us,” reports a Cameroonian asylum seeker, identified as Tikum, in the CRCL complaint.

Alfred Aboya, International Basketball Coach and Ambassador of CAC's #AdvocateForDetainees campaign, said: “I have been connected to the Cameroon American Council for the last 10 years and this moment of racial reckoning is the most consequential and should apply to Blacks in detention. So, I am calling on fellow athletes, but especially Cameroonian athletes in the diaspora to join me and #AdvocateForDetainees like Wilfred and all Cameroonians in detention."

"Immigrants detained in ICE prisons across the country are organizing to protest their indefinite detention and inhumane detention conditions,” said Sofia Casini, Director of Visitation Advocacy Strategies at Freedom for Immigrants. “These brave acts of organizing are regularly met with violence. However, Black immigrants -- including the Cameroonians on hunger strike at Pine Prairie -- face an additional obstacle: systemic anti-Blackness and racism. ICE must be held accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate systems of trauma and violence."

“For Black immigrants, the everyday injustices of ICE detention and immigration proceedings are compounded by anti-Blackness and racism,” said Rose Murray, a direct services attorney with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. “We see this clearly in Louisiana, where the New Orleans ICE Field Office is two and a half times more likely to deny the parole applications of arriving Cameroonian asylum seekers than those from applicants from other countries. This has led to the indefinite detention of Cameroonians and other Africans in appalling conditions. It needs to end now. The peaceful hunger strikers must be immediately released from solitary confinement.”

Like protesters before them, this group of Black asylum seekers continues to lawfully and peacefully protest an ICE detention system in which at least fifty-nine human beings have died since 2015, including five preventable deaths due to COVID-19, and six deaths in Louisiana.

According to the complaint, ICE and Geo Group have violated the asylum seekers’ First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. “Human beings detained by ICE are guaranteed certain liberty interests such as reasonably safe conditions of confinement, freedom from unauthorized use of force and deadly force, from blanket use of solitary confinement to retaliate against peaceful protesting, from unreasonable bodily restraint, and the right to food, clothing, medical care, and shelter,” reads the complaint sent to the DHS Office of Inspector General

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The Cameroon American Council (CAC) was founded in Washington, DC in 2010. CAC  is the leading African Immigrant Advocacy Organization. Its mission is to build capacity, relevance and visibility within African communities in the US. The Cameroon American Council carries out its mission through innovative policy analysis, outreach,  advocacy, audience development and capacity building of African Leaders/African institutions/businesses. CAC's multidisciplinary approach to advocacy has being hailed by The Washington Post as the “First Program of Its Kind”. CAC’s national network reaches over 300,000 African immigrants, including first and second generations, across the United States. Please follow us on @CamAmerCouncil.

Freedom for Immigrants is devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. We monitor the human rights abuses faced by immigrants detained by ICE through a national hotline and network of volunteer detention visitors, while also modeling a community-based alternative to detention that welcomes immigrants into the social fabric of the United States. Through these windows into the system, we gather data and stories to combat injustice at the individual level and push systemic change. Visit www.freedomforimmigrants.org and follow @MigrantFreedom.

Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA) is a legal services organization that defends the rights of our immigrant communities and advocates for just and humane immigration policy. Visit https://www.islaimmigration.org/. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.