Buried in the local news section of the New York Times on Wednesday was yet another disturbing report about the treatment of immigrant detainees by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. http://bit.ly/5df4fp. Detainees at the Varick Street Detention Center in Lower Manhattan reportedly went on a hunger strike to protest ICE detention policies and practices. A Jamaican detainee alleged that “all hell broke” loose after about 100 detainees refused to go to the mess hall on Tuesday morning and gave ICE officers flyers declaring they were on a hunger strike protesting detention policies and practices. According to the Times, one detainee claimed a SWAT team used pepper spray and ‘beat up’ some detainees, took many to segregation cells as punishment and transferred about 17 to immigration jails in other states. The 20 detainees remaining in his dorm were threatened with similar treatment if they continued the hunger strike. Other detainees reported they had seen immigration agents in riot gear dragging detainees from the far side of the jail while other detainees were taken to the segregation unit. Most detainees who reported the incident would not give their names for fear of retaliation.
It may not seem surprising that prisoners would protest the conditions of their confinement. But ICE detention is particularly suspect and each and every allegation of abuse must be taken as if true until ICE proves otherwise. This latest report comes on the heels of a major article that ran in the Times on Sunday, January 9, 2010 that exposed a detention system riddled with abuse, neglect, death, and corruption which immigration authorities have schemed to keep secret. Over the past two years there have been no less than 20 alarming articles about abuse and death in ICE detention including,
- Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail, January 9, 2010 http://bit.ly/5b6sTY
- Officials Say Detainee Fatalities Were Missed, August 17, 2009 http://bit.ly/40x9fD
- Immigrant Detainee Dies, and a Life Is Buried, Too, April 2, 2009 “http://bit.ly/2Id48H
- Ill and in Pain, Detainee Dies in U.S. Hands, August 12, 2008 http://bit.ly/4Elc0h
- Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in Custody, May 5, 2008 http://bit.ly/7iffNx
A more complete catalog can be found at http://bit.ly/8JBA1w. Each article gets longer and more urgent. And this list doesn’t include Congressional testimony and other independent reports detailing horrific detention conditions. As the Times stated in its January 19 editorial http://bit.ly/5WR6jE,
It is nothing less than horrifying that the terms “disappear”, “secret”, and “death” can be used to describe ICE detention. When will the Obama Administration act to protect the basic human rights of immigrant detainees? How many more will have to die before someone in government is outraged enough to start paying attention?