Solitary confinement, strip searches, prolonged yelling, threats, broken phone lines, mold, and being crowded in with hardened criminals.
These are just some of the cases of widespread abuse against undocumented immigrants held in detention centers that were revealed in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General's report.
The Office of the Inspector General made unannounced visits to six Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) facilities across the United States after receiving an onslaught of complaints from immigrant activist groups and via hotlines. Four of those facilities in New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, and California, were in some cases not abiding by federal standards and revealed “significant issues.”
“Overall, we identified problems that undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment,” the report said. “All ICE detainees are held in civil, not criminal, custody, which is not supposed to be punitive.”
In one ICE facility, Santa Ana City Jail in California, immigrants were being strip-searched without “reasonable suspicion,” which is illegal. At the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, for example, some detainees were accidentally housed with high-risk detainees, endangering their safety. A 27-year-old man named Jean Carlos Jimenez Joseph committed suicide at that facility in May after being held in solitary confinement for 19 days.
"We can't look away anymore," Mary Small, policy director of Detention Watch Network, told CNN.
"A lot of the things that were found … are horrifying," she said. "They're not small procedural problems. They're things that are actually extremely dangerous for people who are detained."
ICE has long come under fire for its treatment of immigrant detainees. Deaths in ICE facilities are on course to double under the Trump administration compared to last year, an investigation by the Daily Beast revealed in October.
In line with Trump’s campaign promises, ICE is cracking down on deportations since Jan 20. Specifically, “interior removals” — cases where people not seized at the border — soared by 37 percent since Trump’s inauguration, according to Human Rights Watch.
Data also shows ICE focusing on soft targets, such as those with minor traffic offenses or violations of immigration law.