Tag Archives: detention

Immigrant mothers allege mistreatment in US detention centers

Five immigrant mothers held in facilities with their children are seeking millions of dollars in damages from the U.S. government for what they contend is psychological and physical harm as a result of being detained , according to court papers filed this week.

Andrew Free, a Nashville immigration lawyer representing the women, filed tort claims against the Department of Homeland Security, alleging the detained women and their children received inadequate medical care, suffered psychological trauma and in some cases were wrongfully imprisoned.

The tort claims, a precursor to a federal lawsuit, also target U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE oversees two family detention centers in South Texas and another in Pennsylvania that currently hold about 1,400 people.

The filing comes just days after the government fought a federal judge’s ruling calling for the immediate release of children and their mothers from detention, saying it intends to turn the facilities into short-term processing centers and that limiting family detention could spark another surge in immigrants from Central America.

Tens of thousands of immigrant families, mostly from Central America, crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. last summer. Many have petitioned for asylum after fleeing gang and domestic violence back home.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen refused to comment on the pending litigation as a matter of policy. But she said the agency ensures that the centers operate in an “open environment” and are “an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries.” The facilities provide access to play areas, educational services, medical care and legal help, she said. ICE officials have also said that it was necessary to detain families to ensure they didn’t vanish.

But Free said that the reality of family detention is far different and that the government has “fallen below the standard of care that they owe to these detainees,” as well as violated their rights as asylum seekers by using detention as a deterrent.

“We expect this will be the first in a large set of filings on the mistreatment of these women and children on behalf of the government,” Free said.

Claimants in the 60-page filing, all from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, include a woman who said she received poor care for an injured ear because she could not speak to the medical staff in her indigenous language.

Another said her children were among 250 kids given an erroneously high dose of a hepatitis A vaccine, despite their having proof of previous vaccination.

A mother and daughter fleeing gang violence and held for more than six months were both diagnosed by a psychologist with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression exacerbated by their long detention.

A Honduran mother reported that her 8-year-old daughter attempted to breast-feed again, and another woman and her son said they had languished in detention for 28 days after having passed their credible fear interview, the first legal hurdle for asylum. When the same woman sought treatment for her broken fingers and wrist, she was allegedly told to “drink more water” by medical staff and her son was rushed to the hospital after “a virus apparently had gone untreated for a dangerously long time,” according to the court papers.

“By bearing witness and helping these women assert these claims, we are undermining the government’s narrative that this is a kindler gentler, detention policy,” Free said.

More than 170 House Democrats have asked that Homeland Security end family detention. Immigrant rights organizations have filed complaints asking for investigations into the facilities, which include similar allegations of inadequate medical care and detention exacerbating or causing psychological trauma.

U.S. Marine suspected of killing transgender Filipino

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said this week that a murder investigation focused on a U.S. Marine should have no bearing on the two countries’ relations, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington seeks no “special privilege” for the suspect but only protection of his rights.

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who took part in joint exercises earlier this month, is suspected in the killing of Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender Filipino. Philippine police and witnesses said the two met at a disco bar in the city of Olongapo on Oct. 11, then went to a motel room where Laude’s body was later found in the bathroom. She had apparently been drowned in the toilet, according to police Chief Inspector Gil Domingo.

Pemberton is being held on the USS Peleliu at the Subic Bay Freeport, about 50 miles northwest of Manila, and U.S. authorities have ordered the ship to stay there until the investigation is completed.

The Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows U.S. forces to conduct military drills in the Philippines, says that the Philippines can prosecute American service members, but that the U.S. has custody over them “from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.” The Philippine Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2009 that convicted U.S. personnel must serve any sentence in Philippine detention.

The killing has drawn protests, typically small, by opponents of the U.S. presence in the Philippines, as well as by LGBT civil rights groups that have described the killing as a hate crime. The nations signed an accord in April that allows greater U.S. military access to Philippine military camps, part of Washington’s pivot back to Asia, where it wants to counter China’s rising might.

Aquino defended the Visiting Forces Agreement and said Pemberton’s case would not affect it.

“Why would we abrogate the VFA? I mean, name me any place that doesn’t have a crime. And the sin of one person should be reflective of the entire country? I don’t think so,” Aquino said. He said the important task was to gather all the details that would pin down the killer “so we will get justice.”

Kerry, on a brief stop in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the inauguration of President Joko Widodo, said Pemberton’s rights must be protected under the law and existing accords.

“It is very important for our agreements to be upheld, it is very important for the rule of law to be upheld, for his rights to be protected but for the process to unfold appropriately,” Kerry said in the Indonesian capital, where he met his Philippine counterpart, Alberto del Rosario. “We will indeed uphold our agreements with our friends in the Philippines. They deserve nothing less.”

Accompanied by local police, Laude’s family filed a murder complaint against Pemberton with Olongapo prosecutors.

Late last week, Philippine authorities served a subpoena at the U.S. Embassy for Pemberton and four other Marines, who were sought as witnesses, to appear this week before prosecutors in Olongapo in a preliminary investigation. The prosecutors will decide if there is enough evidence for charges to be filed in court.

American investigators have worked with local police, but have not made public any details surrounding the case.

The U.S. Embassy said Sunday that prosecutors had met with the four witnesses. The embassy said it was up to the suspect whether to appear, depending on the advice of his Philippine lawyers.

Court dismisses challenge to law allowing Wisconsin to forcibly detain pregnant women

The federal court in Wisconsin has dismissed a petition filed by Alicia Beltran challenging her detention under a provision of the Wisconsin Children’s Code that allows the state to take women into custody from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Beltran challenged her detention under the Wisconsin law that permitted her arrest, detention and involuntary in-patient medical treatment based upon the unproven charge that she “habitually lacked self-control in the use of alcohol or controlled substances.”

The matter began when Alicia Beltran, a 28-year-old pregnant woman, sought early prenatal care and confided in health care workers about prior use of painkillers and her efforts to end that use on her own. Instead of commending Beltran for her progress, her medical practitioners reported her to the state Department of Human Services and she was arrested on July 18, 2013, by Wisconsin law enforcement officials.

Beltran was forcibly taken into custody when she was 14 weeks pregnant, put into handcuffs and shackles and brought to a court hearing. Although a lawyer had already been appointed to represent her fetus, Beltran had no right to counsel — and therefore had no attorney — at the court appearance which resulted in her long-term detention. Without testimony from any medical expert or without giving Beltran any chance to challenge any allegations against her, a family court referee ordered Beltran to be detained at an inpatient drug treatment program two hours from her home and from her prenatal care provider.

Beltran filed a complaint in federal court, gaining national press attention to her detention. After that, the state allowed her to leave in-patient treatment and, subsequently, the state dropped the petition against Beltran. By that time, however, she had been detained against her wishes far from family for more than 70 days.

It was on the ground that Beltran had eventually been released and the charges against her dropped that the federal court this week dismissed the case as moot. So the court did not rule on the merits of Beltran’s complaint.

However, the court ruling acknowledged that “if Beltran’s allegations are true, what happened to her is extremely disturbing.”

“We are disappointed that the court refused to address the constitutionality of the law, and instead avoided reaching a decision about a statute that permits the State to rip pregnant women from their homes, endangering them and their future children.” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and a member of Beltran’s legal team.

She added that “the law does not even give pregnant women the right to counsel at the initial stages of the proceedings against them and most of the women who are detained while pregnant will have difficulty finding lawyers able to bring constitutional claims.”

The court suggested, however, that another civil rights action, potentially representing a class of women brought within the ambit of the law, might not present the same mootness issues. Beltran is currently considering her legal options in the wake of the decision, according to a news release.

Action alert: Petition demands release of transgender woman raped in Arizona immigration jail

Activists across the country are demanding the immediate release of Marichuy Leal Gamino, a transgender woman raped in the men’s immigration prison where she has been detained for more than a year.

According to Equality New Mexico, Gamino was placed in a for-profit private detention center in Arizona on an order from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Throughout the detention, Gamino has endured sexual harassment, bullying and threats of violence, according to EQNM. She reported the abuse to an officer at the detention center, who allegedly ignored her complaints.

Equality New Mexico says the abuse escalated. A cellmate sexually assaulted Gamino earlier this summer. When she reported the rape to authorities, they pressured her into signing a statement that the sexual activity was consensual, according to EQNM.

In a statement released by EQNM, Gamino’s mother said, “I want ICE to understand the harm they’re causing and let her go so she can be home with me. ICE knows they are responsible for her safety but they let this happen. I wish that ICE officials would put themselves in my shoes, as a mother. How would they feel if someone they loved were in this position? Anger isn’t enough to express what I feel. We need her home.”

The Human Rights Campaign, in a statement in late July, said, “HRC is very concerned about Marichuy’s safety.  This must be the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) overriding priority.  One way to help achieve that would be for her to be housed in facilities consistent with her gender identity.  According to the University of California Irvine’s Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, transgender women in men’s prisons are 13 times more likely to be sexually abused as other inmates.”

ICE, in a statement to the press, said it had received an allegation of a sexual assault and referred it to the appropriate authorities. “ICE has a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior in its facilities and takes any allegations of such mistreatment very seriously,” the statement said.

On the Web …

The petition can be found at: http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/portfolio/marichuy/

Editor’s note: WiG’s policy is to withhold the names of sexual assault victims. However, in this case, Gamino is working with civil rights and immigration rights advocates, who are asking people to petition the government on her behalf.




Amnesty calls on China to release those detained over Tiananmen Square observances

Chinese authorities must immediately release all those detained for trying to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, urged Amnesty International, following a spate of detentions in the past week. 

At least five prominent activists have been detained in Beijing, while several others have been questioned by police, as the authorities attempt to suppress critics ahead of the 25th anniversary on June 4.  

“These latest detentions show how far the authorities are prepared to go to silence those that seek to remember the 1989 crackdown,” said Anu Kultalahti, China researcher at Amnesty International.

 “Twenty-five years on the authorities have once again chosen the path of repression rather than accept the need for an open discussion about what happened in 1989.” added Kultalahti.

On Tuesday, Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer, was criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels” after he attended a weekend seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the June 4 crackdown.

Four other activists who also took part in the event — Xu Youyu, Liu Di, Hao Jian and Hu Shigen — have been detained on the same grounds. Under Chinese law, police can now hold all five activists until after June 4.  

“All those detained for attempting to mark the 25th anniversary must be released immediately and unconditionally. The persecution of those trying to remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown must end,” said Kultalahti.

There are increasing concerns for a leading Chinese journalist that covered the 1989 crackdown and has campaigned for justice since. Gao Yu was last heard from on April 24. 

Several other prominent activists have been questioned by police in an attempt to deter them from speaking out. 

This includes Zhang Xianling whose son, Wang Nan, was killed in 1989.  Zhang, along with other Tiananmen Mothers, has spent the last two decades fighting for justice for the victims of the 1989 crackdown.

Hundreds if not thousands of people were killed or injured during the military crackdown against protestors in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

The 1989 crackdown remains an official taboo in China. Attempts to commemorate, discuss and demand justice for what happened are forcefully curbed, with no public discussion allowed.

Federal ruling puts halt on some immigration detainers

A federal judge in Oregon has found that an immigrant woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was held in jail without probable cause at the request of U.S. immigration authorities, one of several recent federal court decisions to scrutinize the practice of keeping people in jail after they’re eligible for release so that they can be considered for deportation.

The rulings make it clear that local officials are not required to honor immigration authorities’ requests that someone in custody continue to be held even though their original charges were resolved or they are eligible for bail, and that local jurisdictions may be held liable for doing so.

The rulings have spurred several jurisdictions — from multiple Oregon counties to the city of Philadelphia — to announce they will no longer honor requests for such holds.

Previously, some counties and states had already limited use of the practice, arguing it is expensive, erodes immigrants’ trust in law enforcement, and drags people with minor infractions such as traffic violations into deportation.

“This will undoubtedly improve the relationship between each of these offices and the immigrant and refugee communities,” said Carmen Madrid, an organizer with the Portland-based nonprofit Center for Intercultural Organizing.

The decisions come as immigration reform has stalled and the Obama administration is being criticized for deporting mostly people who have not committed a serious crime – despite its stance to focus on dangerous criminals.

Requests that an immigrant be held are sent to local law enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The agency knows who is being booked into local jails because of an information-sharing partnership between ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local jurisdictions.

The notices request that the person be jailed for an extra two days, excluding weekends and holidays, so that ICE can initiate an investigation and take the person into custody.

But immigrant rights advocates say ICE has made mistakes in the past, incarcerating U.S. citizens, people who have not committed any crimes, or those arrested on misdemeanors.

“They do it in a dragnet manner without first doing the investigation upfront, sometimes before a local district attorney has even signed off on the charges. So it results in the unjust incarceration of a lot of people who are not deportable at all, or who are not found guilty in the criminal process,” said Kate Desormeau, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

In recent years, California, Connecticut and more than a dozen jurisdictions around the country have stopped or limited their compliance with the so-called immigration detainer requests. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Maryland are considering similar legislation. On Wednesday, the mayor of Philadelphia signed an executive order limiting the use of such holds.

ICE has said that the requests are optional. The detainers generally are not accompanied with a warrant.

But many local law enforcement agencies say they have treated them as orders because the requests cite federal regulation, which states that a law enforcement agency “shall maintain custody of an alien” once a detainer request has been issued.

“The fact that the detainers contain both language of request and command has led to conflicting interpretations as to whether the immigration detainers provide legal authority for the continued custody of the people named in the detainers,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts wrote in a letter announcing the suspension in the use of detainers.

Roberts changed his policy after a U.S. District Court judge last Friday found the detainers are “requests” that do not provide the necessary legal basis for the jail to hold a person in custody after charges are resolved – and consequently, that in March 2012, the county violated Maria Miranda-Olivares’ rights under the 4th Amendment by prolonging her incarceration without probable cause.

The woman, who was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 48 hours in jail, was incarcerated for more than two weeks due to the ICE hold, even though she was eligible for pre-trial release upon posting bail and after her release from state charges. A hearing will determine how much the county must pay Miranda-Olivares in damages.

The ruling has led sheriffs in Oregon’s Multnomah, Washington, Marion and Deschutes counties to suspend the use of immigration holds. The regional jail that serves Hood River, Wasco, Gilliam, and Sherman counties will also no longer comply with ICE detainer requests.

The Clackamas County case follows a similar case in Philadelphia, where the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that state and local law enforcement authorities are not required to comply with requests from ICE to hold people on detainers without probable cause. The ruling, which involved a U.S. citizen, also recognized that states and localities may share liability when they participate in such detentions.

And in another case in Rhode Island involving a naturalized U.S. citizen, the district court issued a decision reaffirming that detainers don’t justify warrantless imprisonment and allowed the immigrant’s lawsuit against federal and state defendants to proceed.

“These rulings have dispelled any lingering uncertainty on whether localities can say no to ICE detainers,” Desormeau said. “So jurisdictions that have been sitting on the sidelines may now act to limit their use. Otherwise, they’re inviting legal liability.”

Russian police arrest gay rights activists

Russian police have arrested several gay rights activists protesting in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In Moscow, police quickly detained 10 gay rights activists who waved rainbow flags on Red Square and attempted to sing a Russian anthem.

One of the demonstrators, Gleb Latnik, said police insulted them and that one officer even spat in the face of an activist. He said he, and other protesters were released a few hours later.

Moscow police refused to comment.

In St. Petersburg, four activists were detained after unfurling a banner quoting the Olympic Charter’s ban on any form of discrimination. The protesters, who gathered on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, were quickly rounded up by police, according to Natalia Tsymbalova, a local activist.

Police there also refused any immediate comment.

A Russian law banning gay “propaganda” from reaching minors has drawn strong international criticism and calls for boycott of the Sochi Games from gay activists and others.

Russian law also bans any unsanctioned protests and violators may face fines or prison sentences.

Human Rights First, a rights watchdog based in New York and Washington D.C., quickly condemned the arrests of Russian LGBT activists.

“The most alarming thing is, despite the international attention, the authorities are still bringing more charges under the law and it is being applied on a larger scale,” spokesman Shawn Gaylord said in a statement.

All Out, the international group that organized events in 20 cities this week to pressure Olympic sponsors to condemn Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, also harshly criticized the detentions of activists.

“This outrageous move directly contradicts the IOC’s assurance that Russian laws are in line with the Olympic Charter,” said Andre Banks, executive director of All Out.

LGBT groups join in call for reform on National Immigration Day of Action

National lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organizations joined in the march for justice for all immigrants on National Immigration Day of Action, which was observed on April 10 with a rally at the U.S. Capitol and actions around the country.

Tens of thousands joined in the demonstrations focused on pushing Congress, as lawmakers craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill, to include measures that would grant 11 million immigrants living here without proper documentation a path toward citizenship.

Actions took place in D.C. and at least 18 states.

Twenty-six LGBT groups joined in the actions, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; GLAAD; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, a project of the United We Dream Network; National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance; and Immigration Equality.

“LGBT people are immigrants and immigration is an LGBT issue,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who spoke at the rally at the Capitol.

The groups also call on media to tell the stories of undocumented people that shed light on the many ways the broken immigration system harms millions of Americans, including through family separation and inhumane conditions and abuse in detention facilities.

“Federal immigration reform is about respecting the humanity in each and all of us, including DREAMers and our families, migrant farm workers, LGBT binational couples, and transgender people in need of asylum,” said Jorge Gutierrez, project coordinator QUIP, a project of the United We Dream Network. Gutierrez is openly gay and undocumented.

“As a transgender woman who was detained by immigration authorities, I have first-hand experience with the inhumane treatment and abuse in detention facilities that for years have threatened the health, safety and even lives of millions of immigrants,” said Bamby Salcedo, president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition. “I was sexually assaulted when I was forced to be housed in a dorm with about 100 men in a detention facility, and I was denied adequate access to HIV medication and hormone treatment. These are the harms countless transgender detainees face; we must put an end to these atrocities. We all deserve a chance to live with dignity, to pursue our dreams, and to work for a better future and better quality of life.”

“The current broken system hurts, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants, and their friends and families. Comprehensive federal immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation and the LGBT community,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven said, “Immigration Equality helps thousands of LGBT immigrant families every year: undocumented families, mixed-status families, DREAMers, asylum seekers fleeing persecution, and detainees locked in immigration jail. LGBT people demand reform of a system in which our families are invisible. In the words of binational couple activist Pablo Garcia: ‘I want a path to citizenship. But I don’t want to wait 13 years to be a citizen. If I were straight I would be one already.'”

National LGBT Organizations in Support of National Immigration Day of Action include:
American Civil Liberties Union
Center For Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Freedom to Marry
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
GetEQUAL
GLAAD
GLAD
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Immigration Equality
Lambda Legal
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Minority AIDS Council
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG National
Pride at Work AFL CIO
Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of the United We Dream Network
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
The Trevor Project
Trans-Latin@ Coalition

ACLU files suit over ICE’s illegal detention of woman

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Angelica Davila, a U.S. citizen who was jailed overnight after a minor traffic violation because authorities suspected she was in the country illegally.

Davila was born in Mexico and legally came to the United States at the age of 2 with her parents.

After being stopped for a traffic violation in 2011, Davila was arrested and imprisoned in the Allegheny County, Pa., Jail overnight based on the erroneous belief she was in the country illegally.

“This is a blatant example of ethnic profiling,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The police had no reason to check Ms. Davila’s immigration status for a routine traffic stop when her paperwork was in order. The police questioned her status only because of her ethnicity and that of her passenger.”

The night of the arrest nearly a two years ago, Davila and a friend, Joel Garrete, were pulled over on Perry Highway in Wexford shortly after exiting the parking lot of a grocery store. Davila, a legally licensed driver in Pennsylvania, had forgotten to turn on her headlights. The ACLU says she provided her license, proof of registration, and insurance card to Patrolman Andrew Bienemann of the Northern Regional Police Department.

The officer also demanded identification from her friend and asked if he was in the country legally. A native of Honduras, Garrete admitted he was not lawfully present.

Bienemann then called the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement known as ICE to check on the status of both Davila and Garrete.

Davila provided her name, country of origin and date of birth to ICE Special Agent Brianna Tetrault over the phone and told Tetrault she was legally present in the United States. Davila, who speaks both English and Spanish fluently, agreed to translate while Tetrault spoke to Garrete.

After waiting by the side of the road for two hours, both Davila and Garrete were handcuffed and transported to the Allegheny County Jail at the request of ICE.

During her ordeal, Davila repeatedly explained to police officers and jail guards that she was legally present. She was a U.S. citizen at the time of her arrest under a law granting automatic citizenship to children of U.S. citizen parents who were under 18 on February 27, 2001.

“Spending the night in jail was a horrible experience, especially since I did not know why I was being held,” Davila said. “I want to make sure that this never happens to me or to anyone else again.”

After transporting Davila and Garrete to the jail, Bienemann received a call from ICE informing him that a mistake had been made about Davila’s identity and that she had been incorrectly detained.

Despite receiving official confirmation from ICE at 9:50 p.m. that Davila was lawfully present in the United States, Bienemann made no effort to have her released from jail. She released the next morning , after sleeping on the floor of her holding cell, which had no beds.

The ACLU alleges that the Northern Regional Police Department has a policy of reporting persons suspected of violating immigration laws to ICE and complying with ICE detainer requests even though there is no law requiring it to do so.

“This case is a perfect example of why local police departments should think twice before taking it upon themselves to enforce immigration laws,” said Sara Rose, an ACLU-PA staff attorney representing Davila.

“When ICE makes a mistake about someone’s immigration status – as it did in this case and in a similar case filed by the ACLU-PA on behalf of another U.S. citizen unlawfully detained for an immigration violation – the police officers who carry out the illegal detention violate the Fourth Amendment,” she added.

According to the complaint, the police officer’s decision to contact ICE to check Davila’s immigration status and the ICE agent’s decision to issue an immigration detainer for Davila also violated her right to equal protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution because they were based on Davila’s ethnicity.

The case is Davila v. Northern Regional Police Department, et al.