Oftentimes, the immigration debate digresses into a dispute over the constitution and open borders, the semantics and use of the terms illegal alien vs. undocumented immigrants, and the logistics of a path to citizenship and whether it should be harder or easier depending on which side of the issue you stand.
Right now the policy and procedural issues take a backseat to the cruelty and mistreatment of immigrants and asylum seekers in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. The way these detainments are being handled is easily the most egregious violation of human rights perpetuated by the government on United States soil since the Japanese internment camps of World War II.
In May federal agents performed an unannounced inspection of the privately owned Adelanto Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Processing Center. According to the GEO group, a private company that owns the Adelanto ICE processing facility, it has a capacity of just under 2,000 people.
On Sept. 27, Homeland Security published a report of findings on the detainment center. The report states, “We identified a number of serious issues that violate ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards and pose significant health and safety risks at the facility.”
Among the issues covered in the report were bed-sheet nooses hanging in the cells of detainees, an unjustified and excessive segregation of detainees and a lack of proper medical and dental care resulting in illness and infections.
According to the report, guards at the center claimed that detainees kept the bed sheets hanging to be used as partitions for privacy.
It sounds like a legitimate claim that suggests guards were simply giving detainees some way of maintaining their dignity, but when you learn that in March of 2017 a detainee hung himself with braided bedsheets in his cell. In the months following there were three more attempted suicides by hanging, the truth is that the nooses stayed up because of negligence and apathy. Self-inflicted strangulation accounted for one fifth of ICE reported deaths in an 18-month period.
While the bedsheet nooses are indeed awful, a multitude of horror stories fill the report. At the time of inspection, the Adelanto facility had 14 detainees in disciplinary segregation.
Investigators found that all 14 detainees placed in segregated and restrictive units were placed there incorrectly. In addition to being placed in the discipline unit inappropriately, those detainees were also deprived of their contact visitations from family members despite the fact that the center’s policy handbook lists no such punishment nor was the punishment handed down by a disciplinary panel.
The mistreatments at Adelanto alone go on and on: doctors rubber stamping their names on detainee forms when they didn’t speak to or see them, dentists extracting the wrong teeth and detainees going without any form of dental care for over four years.
Frequently when immigrants’ struggles are discussed, a false equivalence is drawn between immigrants and veterans – those who are entitled to care and resources by virtue of service and sacrifice. A “there can only be one” complex embeds itself in the minds of those opposed to immigrants/immigration as they claim that we only have resources to focus on our veterans.
To anyone with that frame of mind: our government and non-profit sectors are multi-faceted, bureaucratic agencies capable of delegating and prioritizing. There are many people and organizations in Washington, D.C., and across state legislative bodies with the experience and access to resources to address multiple issues. As taxpayers and constituents of these legislators we should demand that they do better.
Detention centers and the treatment of the humans under their care is not a partisan issue. It is a human issue.
These people have not been convicted of any crime; rather, they are awaiting a civil proceeding. Has their mere act of migrating across the border without documentation pose any imminent harm? In many reported cases, their pleas for asylum are not even being heard, let alone considered.
The complete despair experienced by detainees seeking shelter and opportunity is unacceptable.
Adelanto is not the only ICE detention facility and it is by no means an anomaly. The reports of mistreatment plague private detention facilities across the nation. The fact that this degree of inhumanity exists only 54 miles from La Verne should raise more concern and warrant greater action. We cannot allow this to continue in our own backyard.
This is not who we should be.