[Pnews] Haitian Detainees are Captive Capital for Private Prison Corporation

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 25 15:16:25 EST 2018


  Haitian Detainees are Captive Capital for Private Prison Corporation

Jemima Pierre - 24 Jan 2018

*/“When they cannot make more money out of us, then they deport us 

My first trip to the GEO Group’s Adelanto Detention Center, the 
privately-run prison facility located deep inland in Southern 
California’s San Bernardino County, was to meet with a Haitian asylum 
seeker, Mr. 
Mr. Clement had entered the U.S. from Mexico and had been in detention 
for nine months. Earlier that summer, he participated in a hunger strike 
that brought together Central American and Haitian asylum seekers 
demanding better treatment in Adelanto. It was through this strike that 
he and some of the other detained Haitian men had garnered some 
attention. And through a series of legal and activist 
connections—connections stretching from local immigration rights 
organizers through Florida, Haiti, and back to Los Angeles—I heard of 
Mr. Clement and faced, for the first time, the travesty of detention for 
Haitian immigrants and asylum seekers in Southern California.

Haitian immigrants and asylum seekers are a growing population within 
detention centers all over the U.S. Southwest. Numbers vary, but there 
are estimates of thousands of noncriminal Haitians incarcerated, with 
the largest population in Otay Mesa, Arizona. Haitian migration to these 
parts is relatively new, beginning with a trickle arriving early 2016 to 
thousands today. (Mr. Clement said that there were about thirty to fifty 
other Haitian men, as well as a small number of Africans, detained in 
his jail block. He was not sure of the numbers held in other blocks, or 
of how many Haitian women are being held in the women’s wing of 
Adelanto.) This migration is also unusual. It reflects a new pattern for 
Haitian migrants, who originally traveled the direct route over the 
Caribbean Sea to the eastern U.S., and settled in metropolitan centers 
such as Miami and New York, cities with large Caribbean and African 
immigrant populations. This new pattern of migration means a more than 
7,000-mile trek over land from Brazil through South and Central America, 
into Mexico and, finally, crossing one of the borders into the U.S. 

*/“This migration reflects a new pattern for Haitian migrants.”/*

Mr. Clement’s journey to the U.S. was not an easy one. But his story is 
similar to that of other Haitian migrants in Southern California. He 
left Haiti for the Dominican Republic and later traveled to Brazil. He 
was in Brazil for eight months, working odd jobs, barely surviving. Life 
in Brazil was precarious for Mr. Clement as it was for other Haitian men 
and women. Brazil, already known for its long history of anti-Black 
racism, was almost unbearable for Haitians, who are perceived as “too” 
Black, and often suffered racist violence.[2] <#_edn2> Many Haitians 
have decided to leave Brazil, risking their lives to make the 
treacherous trek to the United States where they have family. Similarly, 
from Brazil, Mr. Clement traveled by land through Peru, Ecuador, 
Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and 
Mexico. The journey took more than three months, interrupted by arrests 
(for example, Nicaraguan officials arrested Haitians on site and jailed 
them for days) and a lack of funds. Occasionally, Haitian migrants would 
claim to be from an African country in order not to be harassed by 
officials in some Central American states. Mr. Clement spoke of the 
difficulty of the journey through Central America including having 
friends and fellow travelers die in the Columbian forests, drowning as 
they crossed rivers, or being robbed by local bandits. He said 
Honduras[3] <#_edn3> provided something of a reprieve—a small community 
in Choluteca became one of the first groups to treat the Haitian 
travelers as family. Tijuana was the only other place in his travels 
where Mr. Clement felt he was treated with kindness.

*/“Brazil was almost unbearable for Haitians, who are perceived as ‘too’ 

He said Honduras provided something of a reprieve—a small community in 
Choluteca became one of the first groups to treat the Haitian travelers 
as family. Tijuana was the only other place in his travels where Mr. 
Clement felt he was treated with kindness.

Mr. Clement spent more than a month in Tijuana, waiting for an 
appointment date from the Mexican government to cross the border into 
the U.S.[4] <#_edn4> When Mr. Clement finally approached the San Ysidro 
border crossing he was immediately arrested. He was surprised to find 
that his initial immigration interview was conducted by a 
Haitian-American border patrol officer—in Haitian Creole (kreyòl 
ayisyen). The officer was intimidating, Mr. Clement said. He repeatedly 
accused Mr. Clement of being a Haitian gang member who was running away 
from rivals, a claim Mr. Clement denied. After Mr. Clement was processed 
he was sent to a small holding cell. The cell was not meant for more 
than three or four people but was packed with at least thirty 
individuals. The holding cell had no window or bed. Most people slept 
sitting up while some slept on mats. The prisoners could not shower or 
brush their teeth. They didn’t know how long migrants were held there, 
but Mr. Clement believed that it was around five days. (Other Haitian 
migrants confirmed these facts.) After those five days, they were moved 
to actual jail cells in another prison—in San Diego (whose name he and 
the others do not know). After three days there, the migrants and asylum 
seekers were put in prison jumpsuits, shackled with chains at the waist, 
wrists, and ankles, and placed on a bus for the more than six-hour drive 
to the Adelanto Detention Center.

Mr. Clement and his colleagues discussed their treatment in the 
U.S.—from border guards to prison guards—as condescending and inhumane 
and they all stated that they were not expecting to be treated like 
criminals the moment they crossed the border. They described the 
humiliation of not being able to use the toilet on the long bus trip to 
Adelanto. Some people urinated on themselves while others asked their 
fellow prisoners to unzip their pants to remove their penises so they 
could urinate where they sat.

*/“The lights in the cells were never turned off and the detention 
center was always freezing cold.”/*

The men described their months-long stay at Adelanto as torture. The men 
recounted being kept indoors most of the time, and allowed outdoors once 
a week but only for a very short period. They were not allowed to sleep 
more than a few hours at a time. For example, when guards ordered the 
inmates into their small rooms at 11 p.m., they had to wake up at 1 a.m. 
for a “head count.” After ordering everyone back to their rooms, the 
guards woke them up again at 4 or 5 a.m. for breakfast. The lights in 
the cells were never turned off—which, according to one former Haitian 
detainee, affected those on the top bunks even more—and the detention 
center was always freezing cold. In addition, some of the Haitians 
complained of guards using racial slurs against them, calling them 
“fucking blacks” and “Haitian trash.”

At Adelanto, Haitians have had larger bond amounts (ranging anywhere 
from $15,000 to $50,000) placed on them to secure their release than 
immigrant prisoners elsewhere in the U.S. And until recently, very few 
Haitians have been able to bond out of Adelanto and few have won their 
asylum cases. A colleague who currently conducts research at Adelanto 
suggested that the denial rate for Haitian asylum cases there was almost 
100%. At the same time, despite the denial rates, the asylum seekers are 
forced to serve extended periods in detention before their deportation. 
Mr. Clement spoke of Adelanto as “sucking us dry.”

I know that this prison is private business, and that this body [he 
gestures to his chest] is worth $140 per day for Adelanto. So they hold 
us for as long as they can. They give us high bonds that we cannot pay. 
They change our asylum hearing dates. They even force those who do not 
want asylum to claim asylum so they can keep them longer*.* When they 
cannot make more money out of us, then they deport us quickly.

*/“Some of the Haitians complained of guards calling them ‘fucking 
blacks’ and ‘Haitian trash.’”/*

Indeed, reporter Kate Morrissey argued that as of November 2016, 
“detaining Haitians… in immigration holding facilities is costing 
American taxpayers an estimated $379,380 per day.”[5] <#_edn5> That 
number is greater now. Mr. Clement and some of his friends describe a 
number of African immigrants and asylum seekers who, having been 
detained for months without hope, attempted suicide.

Compared to those coming from Central America and Mexico, the detention 
of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers in the U.S. Southwest is 
relatively recent.[6] <#_edn6> When Haitian migrants first began in 
appear at the U.S.-Mexico border in small groups in early 2016,[7] 
<#_edn7> they were allowed into the U.S. through what is called a 
“humanitarian parole,” given a three-year temporary pass and released to 
family members. However, by late September 2016, and as the numbers of 
immigrants and asylum seekers increased exponentially, the Obama 
administration’s Department of Homeland Security put new arrivals in 
“expedited removal proceedings,” which means that they could be—and 
were—detained in prisons, especially if they have asylum claims.

How did so many Haitian people end up at the U.S.-Mexico border and, 
ultimately, at the Adelanto Detention Center and other facilities 
throughout the U.S. Southwest? In the increasing coverage given to this 
recent wave of Haitian migrants, the story seems simple: Haitians 
traveled to Brazil under humanitarian visas after the 2010 earthquake, 
and later were recruited to Brazil as a cheap labor source while the 
country prepared to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer 
Olympics. Since then, Brazil has been beset by severe economic 
retrenchment, forcing many Haitians to leave for the U.S.

Yet there is much more to this. Migrants leave Haiti for economic 
reasons, but also because of gang-related persecution, political 
instability, domestic abuse, and extreme homophobia.[8] <#_edn8> The 
country has also suffered from a long history of foreign military 
interventions, including ten interventions by the U.S. since the end of 
the nineteenth century. The U.S. also occupied Haiti twice in the 
twentieth century, the longest being the nineteen-year military 
occupation from 1915-1934. Most recently, Haiti has been under a 
militarized foreign occupation since February 2004, when the U.S., 
Canada, and France sponsored a coup d’état to oust its popularly elected 
president, Jean Bertrand Aristide.[9] <#_edn9> The coup d’état led to a 
short military occupation by U.S. forces, which was later sanctioned by 
the United Nations Security Council when they approved a “peacekeeping” 
mission in Haiti.[10] <#_edn10> The military wing of the mission was 
headed by Brazil for more than a decade.[11] <#_edn11> The occupation of 
Haiti has also added to the country’s political instability, undermining 
Haitian democracy and self-determination and challenging sovereignty. It 
has also led to massive suffering: Fall 2010, not long after the 
earthquake January of that year that killed hundreds of thousands of 
people, Nepalese troops brought cholera to Haiti. It induced an epidemic 
that has sickened more than a million Haitians and killed between 10,000 
and 30,000.[12] <#_edn12> Accountability has not been forthcoming. The 
UN has refused to admit its culpability and the Haitian people have had 
no avenue for redress.

*/“Haiti has been under a militarized foreign occupation since February 
2004, when the U.S., Canada, and France sponsored a coup d’état.”/*

When we met, Mr. Clement was preparing to present his asylum claim 
before a U.S. immigration court housed not far from the ICE offices 
within the Adelanto facility. Immigration proceedings in detention 
centers are considered “administrative” matters and are less formal than 
regular court proceedings. The usual rules of evidence do not apply and 
the presiding judges have substantial leeway in their interpretation of 
testimony and the assessment of asylum claims. Meanwhile, as U.S. 
immigration policy dictates, he can only receive legal representation at 
his own expense; Mr. Clement was forced to represent himself.

Yet despite such terrible circumstances, Mr. Clement is one of the 
fortunate ones. With the help of a bond fund[13] <#_edn13> established 
for the Adelanto hunger strikers by a local organization, volunteers 
were able to bond him out of the detention center just before his 
deportation hearing. A regular immigration judge on the outside—rather 
than within Adelanto—will now hear his asylum case, and Mr. Clement will 
now have a more normal set of legal set of proceedings. At the same 
time, he is stuck within the U.S. criminal justice system. He was bonded 
out on a $17,000 bond with two ankle bracelets (shackles produced by a 
subsidiary of the GEO Group)—one for ICE, and one for the bond company. 
The bond company that collateralized his release requires former 
detainees to pay a $480 “activation fee” for the ankle monitor, and $420 
per month service fee for as long as it takes for his case to be 
resolved. Yet, as an asylum seeker awaiting trial, Mr. Clement is not 
allowed to seek employment to cover this non-refundable fee, the ankle 
monitor fee, or his day-to-day living expenses.

Mr. Clement may be out of detention, but he is certainly not free.

*/This article previously appeared /*/in Boom 


With gratitude to Peter James Hudson for his brilliant and generous 

All names of asylum seekers are pseudonyms.

“Haitian Immigrants Victims of Xenophobic Attacks in Brazil,” /TeleSur/, 
9 August 2015, 
“‘It’s not because I’m black, is it?’—As Haitian immigrants head to the 
south of Brazil, racist tendencies arise as descendants of European 
immigrants turn their noses up,” /Black Women of Brazil/, 29 May 2015, 

Although, with pressure from the United States, Honduras has begun 
arresting Haitian migrants traveling through the country 

It turns out that the Mexican government does not allow all who want to 
cross the border to the U.S. Instead, it passes out appointment dates to 
cross. Most of these dates require the Haitian (and other migrants) to 
spend at least two weeks in Baja California.

Kate Morrissey, “ Detaining Haitians awaiting deportation to 
hurricane-ravaged homeland is not inexpensive,” /San Diego Union 
Tribune/, 11 November 2016, 

Of course, the U.S. has a long history of detaining Haitian asylum 
seekers and migrants. Two of the more notorious detention centers are 
Krome Detention Center (http://thepublicarchive.com/?p=3362) and the 
U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay 
(http://gitmomemory.org/timeline/haitians-and-gtmo/) before it gained 
more notoriety as a maximum-security prison for purported suspects of 
the U.S. “War on Terror.” Both of these detention centers have 
reputations for the cruel treatment of Haitian immigrants.

Daniel González, “Migrants amassed at U.S.-Mexico border unsure what’s 
next,” /azcentral/,13 December 2016, 

There are also new impediments to social life, including the recent 
Haitian government’s new anti-LGBT posture 

Jemima Pierre, “Haiti: The Second Occupation,” /The Black Scholar/, 14 
August 2015, 
http://www.theblackscholar.org/haiti-the-second-occupation/; Anthony 
Fenton and Dru Oja Jay, “Ottawa’s “Secret Memo”: Canada’s Role in 
Haiti’s February 2004 Coup d’Etat,” /Global Research/, 26 February 2013, 
“When Canada plotted to overthrow Haiti’s government,” 24 January 2014, 

According to Dady Chery, Haiti’s UN mission is the only UN Chapter 7 
force in a country that is not at war. Chapter 7 of the UN Charter gives 
the UN Security Council the power to “determine the existence of any 
threat to the peace” and take military and nonmilitary action to 
“restore international peace and security.” Participating countries have 
boasted about Haiti being a place where they could test their police 
methods and military 
for urban warfare on an unsuspecting population” (“10 Reasons Why UN 
Occupation of Haiti Must End,” /Haïti Liberté/, 19 April 2017, 

Jemima Pierre, “Brazil’s Haitian Training Ground,” /Black Agenda 
Report/, 4 May 2011, 

Gina Athena Ulysse, “30 Thousand Haitian Lives Lost to U.N. Cholera,” 
/HuffPost/, 6 June 2016, 


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