Outside the Law: The Real Condition of Immigrant Detention Centers, Part 4

Outside the Law: The Real Condition of Immigrant Detention Centers, Part 4

Shenandoah Valley is a breathtaking section of the Blue Ridge Mountains where they pass through Virginia. A lawsuit against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center asserts some very ugly things are happening to immigrant youth there.

The AP reported in June 2018 that children detained there have made sworn statements that they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement and left nude and cold in concrete cells. According to one 15-year-old, he was handcuffed and strapped down from his chest to his feet, so he could not move. Then they put a bag over his head. Other children have attested to guards’ practice of similar treatment, stripping their clothes and then tying them to a chair with a bag over their heads.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities claimed the youth were members of the MS-13 gang. An executive at the Shenandoah center testified in a congressional hearing that clinical staff assess incoming youth for involvement in gang activity. He said the children did not appear to be gang members. In fact, many developed mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries.

The Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania continues to operate despite numerous problems. For example, U.S. law prohibits detaining children for more than 20 days. Some youth at Berks have been there for more than two years. Staff shine flashlights into the bedrooms every 15 minutes, leading to insomnia, fear and anxiety. Karen Hoffmann, a lawyer with the non-profit Aldea, calls Berks “a black hole where the law doesn’t seem to apply”. It has not even been licensed for two years.

Abuse in immigrant detention centers is nothing new. ICE told The Intercept that it had received 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse between fiscal years 2012 and March 2018.

DHS regulations put in place in 2014 require ICE to release to the public “all aggregated sexual abuse and assault data” at least annually but the agency has not released a single report as of April 2018.

Advocates for immigrants continue to file lawsuits in their efforts to halt the range of abuses that hundreds of people in multiple facilities are reporting. Lawsuits take months, maybe years, to play out. ICE could solve the problem much more simply. If abusive companies started losing their government contracts and the profits they generate, they would have an incentive more compelling than human decency seems to be.

If you or a loved one is inside an immigration detention center, please seek legal help! Feel free to contact our experienced immigration attorneys at 510-488-1020 to fight for your right to stay in the United States!

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