The Rev. Deborah Lee, executive director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity in Oakland and an immigrant rights leader, said Thursday evening that a proposal to “use people as political pawns is really loathsome.”
“But anything that would support getting people out of immigration detention and back into communities and into livable and humane situations — we would actually encourage that,” Lee said. “We would welcome their release, and we would welcome them here.”
For Immediate Release: October 24, 2018
Contact: Deborah Lee| (415) 297-8222 |email@example.com
ADELANTO —– In response to the recently released report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, faith leaders across California are denouncing and calling upon elected officials to step in to ensure an end to human rights violations in CA immigration detention centers.
The report from the unannounced visit of the Office of the Inspector General of the Adelanto ICE Processing Center found “nooses in detainee cells, improper and overly restrictive segregation practices, and untimely and inadequate medical care,” conditions that violate ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards.
This report of Adelanto follows the release of an independent investigation just released by Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and Freedom for Immigrants of a pattern of abuse, neglect and poor treatment at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, whose contract was recently ended. Many immigrant detainees who were held at WCDF have been transferred to Yuba County and Aurora Colorado where they are also reporting horrific conditions of transfer and confinement.
California faith leaders who have direct contact with detainees are calling attention to this pattern of violence and abuse:
QUOTE FROM FAITH LEADER ON ADELANTO
“I was appalled to read about the health and safety violations that plague GEO’s immigrant detention center in Adelanto. The immigrants detained there are people with hopes and dreams similar to every American’s. They have escaped violence, persecution and poverty in their home countries and are seeking a better life here. They should be treated with respect and dignity. No facility should be making a profit out of their misery, nor should they be putting the immigrants’ physical and mental health at risk by ignoring the rules and regulations meant to keep them safe and secure. As a rabbi, this is particularly painful for me given my people’s history beginning with our enslavement in Egypt and culminating in the Holocaust,” says Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Temple Bethel Riverside, who has personally visited and spoken with detainees at Adelanto who confirm the mistreatment.
Co-Senior Pastor Jacob Buckholtz, of Claremont United Church of Christ, shares, “Reports have been shared with disturbing details of the conditions inside the Adelanto detention facility. Nooses are present in the cells, health care is lacking, and detainees are being improperly restrained and segregated. It is painful to think of our friends we have visited who are being held in this place. They are innocent people. Jose loves music, Leonardo is a devout Catholic who dreams of becoming a firefighter, and Rodrigo is the father of two young girls (names of detainees have been changed to protect their identity). They belong out in the world, chasing their dreams, spending time with their family members, and helping us build a better society. They do not belong locked inside a concrete building where they are isolated, fed beans and rice, and can only earn $1 each day for working 12-hour shifts in the detention center kitchen.”
QUOTE FROM IMMIGRANT DETAINEE
One of the detainees at Adelanto, an asylum seeker from Guatemala, stated “The conditions at Adelanto create depression in the people living here. Though I never attempted suicide, I did have a friend from Ecuador who would cut himself. He said he cut himself to “feel something.”
Claremont United Church of Christ, Co-Senior Pastor Jen Strickland shares, “The people we have met during our visitations have reminded us that immigrants seeking asylum are not nameless, faceless concepts, but genuine human beings with stories, dreams, and fears. Many of them are escaping death threats and horrible living conditions, and their hopes of achieving a life of security, personal fulfillment, and joy are exactly the same hopes we have for ourselves. They have family members both here in the U.S. and in their native countries, who worry about them, pray for them, and are desperate to ensure their safety. Visiting them and accompanying them through the harrowing legal process of seeking asylum is a privilege, as we are reminded how much we have in common with men and women from other parts of the globe.”
Concerns about Adelanto raise concern as LA County seeks to repurpose a former detention center into the new LA women’s prison: “The violence at Adelanto is not an anomaly, but common throughout the US penal system. High Desert detention in Southern California is showing itself to be a human rights disaster and a national disgrace. It’s not just the atrocious mismanagement of the Adelanto gulag that is housing desperate immigrants; it is also the immoral determination of ‘liberal’ Los Angeles County to repurpose a different but equally dismal federal detention center – in Mira Loma – to transfer and house all of its women prisoners currently at Lynwood women’s jail at a distance of 75-100 miles from most of the inmates’ friends and family members in the face of fierce opposition from the community and the documented risk that valley fever poses to anyone housed at that facility,” says Reverend Laarman, a member of Interfaith Movement’s Justice Not Jails committee.
Findings of the independent investigation of WCDF conducted by Immigrant Defenders Research Group, a group of former detainees of the facility, found abuses including inadequate, unhealthy and spoiled food; medical neglect; abusive and discriminatory treatment from detention facility officers; 4 hours of sleep on average because of intentional disruptions by officers throughout the night. As detainees were moved because of the closure of the facility, they were forced to endure inhumane conditions of transport, being shackled in a bus for over 2 days in which they were not allowed to use a restroom the entire journey.
“We asked many times, but were not allowed to use a restroom. Everyone arrived completely soiled from having to urinate and defecate on themselves. My feet were swollen and purple from the shackles,” reports one detainee who was transferred to Colorado. Since arriving at the detention facility in Aurora, CO, other detainees have reported an outbreak of skin rashes and blisters on their bodies. They have been denied medical attention.
One detainee who was recently transferred from West County Detention Facility to Yuba County Jail Detention Center, reports: “Currently, I am in a cell with 50 other people. We are let outside once every 2-5 days. There are open toilets and showers and we have to share 2 chairs between 50 people. The phone calls cost 40c per minute. This is not the way people should be treated.”
“As a faith community, we must be willing to demand humane conditions and due process for those living in detention centers and prisons. They are bearing untold and unacceptable conditions of confinement and suffering. Immigration detention is completely unnecessary and people could be released through community alternatives. We call on our elected officials to join the chorus of concern and outrage at the conditions faced by immigrants here in California detention centers and to do all that they can to demand immediate redress of these problems identified and promote alternatives to detention to reduce the immigration detention population,” says Rev. Deborah Lee, director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
BACKGROUND: September 27, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Management Alert to the Adelanto ICE Processing Center. Based on an unannounced inspection in May 2019 to Adelanto DHS raised a number of serious concerns as they found “nooses in detainee cells, improper and overly restrictive segregation practices, and untimely and inadequate medical care”. These findings violate ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards. For further information, read the report.
On October 7, 2018, an independent investigation on the conditions at West County Detention Facility was released conducted by the Immigrant Defenders Research Group, made up of six co-researchers who were formerly in ICE detention at WCDF utilizing participatory research methodology. Their top 5 most concerning issues were 1) disrespectful treatment from detention facility officers; 2) inadequate and unhealthy food; 3) inadequate free time and programming; 4) disturbed sleep and medical neglect; 5) unacceptable working conditions through the “voluntary work program.” To see detailed results, read the report.
The end to the ICE immigration detention contract at West County Detention Facility was announced on July 10, 2018, by Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. By the end of August no other ICE detainees were held at West County Detention Facility, but it continues to house county inmates. Some were released on bond, but many were transferred to Yuba, Aurora, Colorado, & Tacoma, Washington.
QUOTE FROM IMMIGRANT DETAINEE AURORA, CO
QUOTE FROM IMMIGRANT DETAINEE, YUBA COUNTY, CA
“The separation of families is taking place both at the border and in our communities in California,” said Reverend Deborah Lee, Executive Director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “Refugees who came to this country seeking peace are being torn from their families by an immigration system that refuses to recognize their humanity. California should take action now to stop the deportations through pardoning these refugees.”