America needs to hold ICE accountable for the conditions of its detention facilities.
In 2017, the media was outraged about the conditions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention facilities.
Closure of these facilities was demanded. Three years later, the conditions have severely deteriorated and the media is silent. These facilities are continuing to operate.
Since 2017, ICE detention facilities have been reportedly performing hysterectomies without patient consent, sued for guards regularly sexually assaulting detainees, using hazardous disinfectants in a non-ventilated facility continuously throughout the day and most recently have become a breeding ground for COVID-19.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would conduct an investigation regarding detainees undergoing unnecessary gynecological procedures without their consent at an ICE detention facility in Georgia.
Official complaints state that immigration detainees were routinely sent outside the detention center to a gynecologist who performed full hysterectomies, partial ones and other surgical procedures without their full understanding or consent.
These procedures have left countless women with a low chance of ever being able to conceive a child, if not left completely infertile.
These women are having pieces of themselves taken from them without their knowledge.
A woman’s reproductive system and fertility is not subject to her immigration status. This is just a glimpse of what takes place at ICE detention facilities today.
Additionally, men and women at ICE detention facilities across the country have reported repeated sexual abuse by the officers.
In the past seven years alone, the DHS Office Inspector General has revealed 33,000 complaints of sexual abuse.
Among these reports are that of four women from an ICE detention facility in El Paso, Texas. There women reported being sexually abused by the same staff member so often that it became pattern and practice.
After filing these complaints, one woman was fortunately able to make bond.
One woman still remains in ICE custody at the El Paso facility, one has been deported and the fourth currently faces deportation.
There has been no official investigation conducted by DHS or ICE regarding this complaint. There has not been media outrage about any of the 33,000 reports.
Earlier this year, Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants reported that an ICE detention facility in California has been using HDQ Neutral, a highly concentrated disinfectant in unventilated areas filled with detainees.
The manufacturer of HDQ neutral states that the disinfectant can be extremely dangerous; it can cause skin burns, eye damage and even internal bleeding.
In just one month, 11 detainees at the facility fell severely ill.
Common side effects reported by detainees have been respiratory failure, nausea and rashes. Others have experienced nose bleeds for as long as five hours after coming in contact with the chemical solution.
Detainees at the facility have stated that the disinfectant was sprayed by staff every 15 – 20 minutes throughout all communal areas with detainees present.
The conditions of this facility have been compared to living in a gas chamber.
Additionally, the International Rescue Committee has raised concern about detainees of ICE detention facilities being held in unsafe and unsanitary conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A current detainee at an ICE detention facility spoke out about the lack of safety measures being taken in regard to the pandemic.
Being housed with over 100 other people, the detainees do not have the ability to remain socially distant from one another; in fact, they have compared it to being in a packed marketplace.
Additionally, the detainee reported that they were given a bar of soap and a nonmedical grade face mask to last for the duration of the pandemic.
However, the ICE staff at the facility did not wear face masks or practice social distancing from other staff members or detainees.
It was also reported that there was absolutely no widespread testing at this facility.
If a detainee was presumed ill, they were removed from the general population and brought to an unknown location within the facility.
The detainees exposed to the potentially ill person did not receive COVID-19 testing.
At the beginning of August, ICE reported 3,971 cases of COVID-19 within its detention facilities.
However, epidemiological modeling and reports state that the number of undiagnosed COVID-19 cases could be up to 15 times higher.
This treatment during a global pandemic shows blatant disregard to public health and safety.
Immigrants deserve better; this is not the land of the free.
It is time for Americans to hold ICE accountable for the horrendous conditions in the detention facilities.