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New Report Shows Inhumane Conditions Rampant in South Florida Immigrant Detention Facilities

MIAMI -- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has failed to ensure the safety and welfare of immigrants incarcerated in South Florida detention facilities, according to a new report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice). The report details the lack of medical and mental health care, discrimination against people with disabilities, and the unnecessary use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment.

 

The report, titled “Prison by Any Other Name,” is based on interviews and tours of four immigrant detention facilities –Broward Transitional Center, Glades County Jail, Krome Service Processing Center, and Monroe County Jail—located in South Florida. The report, issued the day before International Human Rights Day on December 10, recommends that ICE revisit both the number of individuals it chooses to detain and the conditions in which it detains them.

 

“Our immigrant detention system is broken as evident in Florida’s detention facilities,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, senior supervising attorney at SPLC. “As the world commemorates International Human Rights Day, the findings in this report serve as a stark reminder that the United States is violating the human rights of people, predominantly people of color, subject to America’s draconian mass incarceration policies -- including tens of thousands of detained immigrants. We have become an outlier in the world when it comes to human rights, a mark of shame we note the day before International Human Rights Day.

 

As the report illustrates, ICE fails to ensure that incarcerated individuals are provided adequate health care or that people with disabilities receive the proper accommodations to participate in basic activities like bathing, sleeping, and getting exercise.  Moreover, ICE fails to provide effective interpretation for non-English speakers in the Florida facilities, forcing individuals to gesture to explain symptoms to medical and mental health workers. 

 

“Reasonable accommodations for mobility-impaired people are ignored—for example, individuals are placed in top bunks despite their disabilities,” said Jessica Shulruff Schneider, director of AI Justice’s detention program. “Medical care is also inadequate —chronic medical conditions are not properly treated, with Ibuprofen as a one-size-fits-all treatment for everything from an infected molar to a broken bone.”

 

Immigrant detention is a system in which noncitizens are incarcerated in prison-like conditions while they wait for an immigration court to decide their cases or for deportation. Conditions are similar to those in prisons even though most detained immigrants have not been charged with a crime.

 

People featured in the report include: 

  • Guillermo, a Venezuelan man who fled his country to escape torture, sexual assault and anti-gay harassment. Upon arriving at Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach he was bullied by guards and harassed for sex by other detained men, was refused a request for a new roommate to escape the harassment, and attempted suicide. 
  • Pierre is HIV positive and has also been diagnosed with hepatitis A. When we spoke with him, he had not received any treatment or seen a doctor after four months at Krome Service Processing Center in Miami. He also had a cyst on his eyelid the size of marble that has not been examined. 

 

Recommendations in the report include: 

  • End detention as the default option in favor of less restrictive, community-based measures that are more cost-effective at ensuring people appear at their immigration hearings.
  • Eliminate the profit motive to detain people, including ending ICE contracts with private prison companies and county jails.
  • Increase oversight and hold facilities accountable when they fall below ICE's own guidelines and constitutional requirements for detention.

“We need to stop locking people up indiscriminately and keeping them in prison-like conditions,” said Goel Agarwal. “Most of these facilities and others like them should be closed immediately, and more humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention should be used instead to ensure that people are safe, treated fairly, and appear for their immigration hearings.”

 

The report can be accessed here: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/cjr_fla_detention_report-final_1.pdf

 

Media who wish to interview people involved with the report should contact Larry Hannan at larry.hannan@splcenter.org or (850) 661-0934 or Mackenzie Sheldon at msheldon@aijustice.org or (305) 573-1106 ext. 1300.