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VICE News

Some ICE facilities strip-search everyone and don't report “proven” sexual assaults, watchdog says

A scathing new report from within the Department of Homeland Security reveals a lack of oversight at detention centers.

by Rex Santus
Jun 29 2018, 8:34pm

Immigrants at ICE detention facilities are being mistreated and sometimes even endangered because of a lack of oversight, according to a scathing new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.

The report, made public on Friday, said the facilities have “egregious repeat deficiencies” — some of which remain unaddressed for years. Even the violations ICE is aware of sometimes go ignored or unaddressed, according to the report.

And perhaps even worse: There’s little accountability for these violations of basic detention standards.

The report goes on to detail some specific infractions that happen to undocumented immigrants housed at ICE detention facilities as a result of ICE’s failure to implement and maintain corrective actions, including:

  • A consistent failure to report “alleged or proven” sexual assaults
  • The use of routine strip-searches for all detainees, even though these are only supposed to be conducted when there is “reasonable suspicion”
  • “Granting waivers that allow some facilities to opt out of complying with particular standards may be appropriate in some cases. However, we identified examples in which the repeated use of waivers allowed facilities to exempt themselves from standards that ICE deems critically important, including those related to health, safety, and security.”
  • At least one instance of a waiver to house detainees with minor criminal histories alongside detainees with histories of “serious criminal defenses,” which is against standard requirements
  • Repeated applications for waivers for implementing required fire evacuation and other safety procedure standards due to fears that facilities’ safety could be compromised by giving such information to detainees

ICE facilities — there are 200, housing some 38,000 people, according to the report, — undergo two types of inspections, and neither is adequate, the report asserts.

The first kind of inspection, by an outside inspector called the Nakamoto Group, were “significantly limited and not frequent enough,” according to the report. A handful of inspectors take only three days to complete an inspection of a facility, interview as many as 100 detainees, brief staff on their findings, and start their inspection reports.

The second kind of inspection, from ICE’s internal inspection unit, on the other hand, used effective methods but were too infrequent to ensure that ICE facilities correct deficiencies.

“ICE’s difficulties with monitoring and enforcing compliance with detention standards stretch back many years and continue today,” the report reads.

“The usefulness of ICE inspections is further diminished by ICE’s failure to ensure that identified deficiencies are consistently corrected.”

The report concludes that ICE needs to complete a comprehensive examination of its inspection process and implement improvements to procedures that ensure deficiencies are corrected.

In a statement to VICE News, an ICE spokesperson said the agency would continue to comply with current policies — but also reevaluate its inspections.

“ICE ERO will re-evaluate the existing inspection scope and methodology in the statement of work for annual and biennial contracted inspections, and has already initiated several steps to bolster the division's quality-assurance process for contracted inspections,” the statement reads.

Cover image: Protesters continue to blockade the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Portland, Ore., on June 19, 2018. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)