Im­mi­grants mis­treated in Florida de­ten­tion cen­ters, in­spec­tors find

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Mar­cia Her­oux Pounds

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, Fla. — De­tained im­mi­grants, some re­strained with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, have been liv­ing with spoiled food, moldy bath­rooms and lim­ited re­cre­ation at de­ten­tion cen­ters run by a com­pany based in Boca Ra­ton, the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity has found.

In unan­nounced in­spec­tions at Geo Group cen­ters from May to Novem­ber 2018, Home­land Se­cu­rity also found that de­tainees were seg­re­gated in vi­o­la­tion of their rights and pro­hib­ited from vis­its with fam­ily mem­bers.

Geo Group is one of the na­tion’s largest de­ten­tion con­trac­tors, this year strik­ing new agree­ments with Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment and the Mar­shals Ser­vice to op­er­ate de­ten­tion cen­ters for the grow­ing num­bers of im­mi­grants be­ing held be­fore le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

Geo op­er­ates de­ten­tion cen­ters across the coun­try.

“The find­ings iden­ti­fied in this re­port per­tain­ing to GEO-op­er­ated fa­cil­i­ties were swiftly cor­rected last year,” a Geo Group spokesman said in a state­ment Mon­day. “We take se­ri­ously any short­com­ings in our de­liv­ery of con­sis­tent, high-qual­ity care, tak­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tion as needed. We al­ways strive to pro­vide cul­tur­ally re­spon­sive ser­vices in safe and hu­mane en­vi­ron­ments that meet the needs of the in­di­vid­u­als in the care of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.”

The re­port, re­leased in June, con­cerns Geo’s de­ten­tion cen­ters in Ade­lanto, Calif; Aurora, Colo.; and LaSalle, La. In­spec­tors also made unan­nounced vis­its and cited vi­o­la­tions at the Es­sex im­mi­gra­tion cen­ter in Es­sex, N.J., which is a county-owned cen­ter. The four im­mi­gra­tion cen­ters house nearly 5,000 de­tainees, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

ICE field of­fices that over­see the de­ten­tion cen­ters have ad­dressed many is­sues cited in the re­port, but some con­tinue, the re­port says.

ICE de­tainees are sup­posed to be held “in civil, not crim­i­nal, cus­tody, which is not puni­tive,” the re­port says, not­ing that na­tional stan­dards of de­tainee care in­clude en­vi­ron­men­tal and health safety; med­i­cal care and per­sonal hy­giene; visi­ta­tion and re­cre­ation; and a grievance sys­tem. The Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral says its re­port con­firms grievances by de­tainees that the ICE de­ten­tion cen­ters were vi­o­lat­ing those stan­dards.

At Geo’s cen­ters, some de­tainees were “pre­ma­turely placed” in dis­ci­plinary seg­re­ga­tion be­fore be­ing found guilty of an of­fense. “Dis­ci­plinary seg­re­ga­tion alone does not con­sti­tute a valid rea­son for re­straints,” the re­port says. Yet three fa­cil­i­ties used hand­cuffs on de­tainees while they were out­side their cells, ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tor gen­eral.

At Geo’s Ade­lanto cen­ter, some seg­re­gated de­tainees were not al­lowed reg­u­lar show­ers or re­cre­ation, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Oth­ers de­tainees were al­lowed re­cre­ation only three days a week in­stead of every day.

Na­tional stan­dards call for de­ten­tion cen­ters to have clean­li­ness and san­i­ta­tion “at the high­est lev­els.” But bath­rooms at Geo’s Ade­lanto cen­ter had mold per­me­at­ing the walls, ceil­ing, vents and shower stalls, which can lead to al­ler­gic re­ac­tions and se­ri­ous ill­ness for the de­tainees, in­spec­tors said in the re­port.

De­tainees are sup­posed to be al­lowed time with ap­proved vis­i­tors. Yet Geo’s Aurora cen­ter didn’t al­low any in-per­son vis­its by chil­dren or other fam­ily mem­bers, ac­cord­ing to de­tainees in­ter­viewed by fed­eral in­spec­tors.

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