[Pnews] ICE Shackled 92 Somalis for 40 Hours On a Failed Deportation Flight. That Was Just the Start of the Abuse.

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 5 11:34:38 EST 2018


https://theintercept.com/2018/03/04/somali-deportation-flight-ice-detention-center/ 



  ICE Shackled 92 Somalis for 40 Hours On a Failed Deportation Flight.
  That Was Just the Start of the Abuse.

Maryam Saleh <https://theintercept.com/staff/maryamsaleh/>- March 4 2018
------------------------------------------------------------------------

_For a brief_ moment in December 2017, the international spotlight 
shined on the case of 92 deportees who were on an Immigration and 
Customs Enforcement-chartered flight to Somalia. Most such flights 
unload their human cargo once they land, but this flight, for logistical 
reasons, returned home — and brought witnesses back with it.

The Somalis told of abuse on the flight, saying they were shackled with 
chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for more than 40 hours; forced 
to urinate in bottles or on themselves; and that ICE officers beat and 
threatened some passengers. (ICE has denied that it mistreated detainees 
on the flight.)

But even after the spotlight dimmed, the abuse continued. The Somalis 
are still being held at the Krome Detention Center and the Glades County 
Detention Center in Florida, as their lawyers try to fight their 
deportations. At Glades, where half the group is being held, they have 
complained of a litany of abuses, including violent assaults by guards, 
denial of medical care, lack of access to their lawyers, and racism.

“The guards and the administration up there at Glades, they think 
they’re immune. To me, it’s so brazen to be doing this. They know 
there’s a federal case. They know we’re up there all the time. They know 
there are investigators up there,” said Lisa Lehner, an attorney at 
Americans for Immigrant Justice, one of the groups representing the 
Somalis. “They called them ‘niggers.’ They called them ‘boy.’ They’ve 
said things like, ‘We’re sending you boys back to the jungle.’” An ICE 
spokesperson in Miami declined to answer questions about the complaints 
coming from Glades, citing pending litigation.

The treatment of the 92 Somalis, both on board the ICE-chartered plane 
and at the Glades detention center, is not a case of a few operators 
gone rogue and exposes the very limited avenues for accountability 
available to those who are abused in ICE custody, as well as the 
particular vulnerability of those who experience aggression on their way 
out of the United States.

Rebecca Merton, a program coordinator at Community Initiatives for 
Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, said that there is a logic 
to the mayhem: The abusive conditions eventually wear down the will of 
detainees to stay and fight their deportation orders in court. “One way 
that ICE, and particularly [Enforcement and Removal Operations, an ICE 
sub-office], achieves its goal of mass deportation is by subjecting 
people to indefinite detention in terrible conditions without any source 
of hope, or sometimes, outside contact,” said Merton.

T_wo weeks after_ the failed deportation flight, the 92 Somalis sued ICE 
for “inhumane conditions and egregious abuse” on the flight and asked 
the court to halt their deportations 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391195-Somali-TRO-Complaint-December-19.html>. 


“As the plane sat on the runway, the 92 detainees remained bound, their 
handcuffs secured to their waists, and their feet shackled together,” 
the complaint 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391198-Complaint-Immigration-Clinic.html> 
— filed by a team of lawyers from the Immigration Clinic at the 
University of Miami Law School, Americans for Immigrant Justice, the 
James H. Binger Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota 
Law School, and Legal Aid Service of Broward County — reads.

“When the plane’s toilets overfilled with human waste, some of the 
detainees were left to urinate into bottles or on themselves. ICE agents 
wrapped some who protested, or just stood up to ask a question, in 
full-body restraints. ICE agents kicked, struck, or dragged detainees 
down the aisle of the plane, and subjected some to verbal abuse and 
threats.”

ICE Air Operations is a division of the agency responsible for 
deportation flights. “ICE Air Operations personnel follow best practices 
when it comes to the security, safety and welfare of the aliens returned 
to their countries of origin,” its website 
<https://www.ice.gov/features/ICE-Air>reads. “There are a variety of 
[Enforcement and Removal Operations] personnel on board who ensure the 
health and safety of the aliens and officers during removal flights.”

But that’s not what happened on December 7, when the plane stopped in 
Senegal to refuel, then sat on a runway there for 23 hours before being 
re-routed to Miami. ICE explained the delay in a statement it issued in 
December. “The relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to 
issues with their hotel in Dakar,” so the aircraft remained parked so 
that the crew could rest. “The allegations of ICE mistreatment onboard 
the Somali flight are categorically false. No one was injured during the 
flight, and there were no incidents or altercations that would have 
caused any injuries on the flight.”

Lehner said some of her clients reported that officers on board the 
airplane apologized to the immigrants when they realized the flight 
would be returning to the United States. It was not clear whether those 
who apologized were ICE officers or private contractors, she said.

A number of major media outlets, including the New York Times 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/09/us/somalia-deportation-flight.html>, 
reported on the failed deportation flight; the news was later picked up 
by Somali media. The Somalis argued in the lawsuit that, if they were to 
be returned to Somalia, they would be “killed or harmed due to changed 
circumstances in Somalia created by the media coverage and notoriety of 
the aborted and abusive December 7 flight.” (A team of pro bono lawyers 
is helping the Somalis try to reopen their past immigration cases in 
pursuit of immigration relief. An immigration court has agreed to reopen 
at least one of their cases so far.)

Though ICE had been planning to take another shot at deporting the 92 
people — most of them men, many of them longtime residents of the United 
States who fled horrors in Somalia and have U.S. citizen family members 
— in December, a judge at the Miami federal court halted their 
deportations at least until January 2. That order has since been 
extended, as the court continues to weigh preliminary issues related to 
the lawsuit.

The lawyers also filed an administrative complaint 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391190-Somali-Flight-Administrative-Complaint.html> 
with the DHS Inspector General and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 
offices — one of few options available to victims of excessive force 
seeking accountability. In addition to laying out what happened on the 
deportation flight, the complaint includes recommendations for 
amendments to ICE’s shackling policy. Fatma Marouf, a professor at the 
Texas A&M University Law School, wrote in the complaint that medical 
studies indicate that “the extreme form of shackling used on the 92 
deportees could cause significant psychological harm.”

In the weeks that followed, the Somalis being held at Glades have 
complained of physical abuse by guards at the county jail that doubles 
as an immigration detention center. The conditions at the jail — pepper 
spray as a form of punishment and lack of access to medical care, to 
name a few — are the subject of a separate administrative complaint, 
court filings, and a letter 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391201-Somali-Letter-to-Lawmakers.html> 
to a congressional representative and state senator.

Khadar Ibrahim, who fled Somalia nearly three decades ago after his 
father was murdered and his aunt was raped in a brutal civil war, said 
he was roughed up both on the flight and at Glades. At one point on the 
deportation flight, Ibrahim stood up to use the bathroom, and an ICE 
officer picked him up from his waist and threw him to the ground 
headfirst, according to court documents. He experienced neck pain for 
weeks after.

Then, at Glades, he watched a fight unfold between two detainees over 
access to a phone on Christmas Day. He watched from his dormitory as 
guards beat up another detainee who tried to break up the fight, and 
when a guard used pepper spray against one of the men involved in the 
fight, other detainees in the dorm inhaled some of it too, according to 
an administrative complaint 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391192-2018-01-08-Glades-Complaint.html>. 
The next day, after two other eyewitnesses asked to speak to a captain 
about what had happened, an officer identified as “Sergeant Mims” 
in the complaint escorted Ibrahim and two other men to segregation 
cells. (ICE declined to comment on the complaint.)

“On the way to segregation and while handcuffed, Sergeant Mims tackled 
me from behind,” Ibrahim wrote in a sworn statement. “I fell forward and 
hit my head on the floor and it made my neck hurt very badly. We went to 
medical, and I told the nurse my neck hurt. Sergeant Mims told her it 
was nothing and she did not examine me. She did not ask me any 
questions, check my blood pressure, or take my temperature. She only 
spoke to Sergeant Mims.”

“Glades staff have used pepper spray, segregation, shackling and 
physical abuse on our clients in a discriminatory display of excessive 
force,” the administrative complaint — filed with two Department of 
Homeland Security offices — reads. “They have used racial slurs to 
berate them, including the words ‘nigger’ and ‘boy.’ They have 
interfered with our clients’ right to make a grievance by threatening 
them and placing them in segregation when they express their intention 
to file a grievance.

I_CE has long_ come under fire for conditions at its detention 
facilities across the country. Krome, the Miami detention center where 
half of the Somali group is being held, was haunted by reports of 
beatings and rapes in the 1980s and 1990s, but complaints of abuse 
largely subsided after the facility was upgraded in the mid-aughts. 
“Some complaints still occasionally surface — but Krome officials say 
they are investigated quickly,” the Miami Herald reported 
<http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article38001279.html>in 
2015. “It’s very, very different from its former self,” Cheryl Little, 
executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, told 
<http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/guards-and-immigration-detainees-describe-widespread-abuse-at-krome-processing-center-7829882>the 
Miami New Times three years ago.

Glades also has its fair share of problems. Lawyers from the Immigration 
Clinic of the University of Miami Law School, after touring the center 
in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016, sent letters to the leadership of Glades 
and Krome, raising concerns about detention conditions. For example, two 
years ago, the clinic identified a number of issues, including “abusive 
and inappropriate officer interactions with detainees; medical 
attention; [and] attorney access to detainees and lack of 
attorney-client confidentiality and privacy.”

Other immigration detention centers — many of them operated by private 
prison corporations — are also plagued by abuses. In December, a 
Department of Homeland Security watchdog reported 
<https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017-12/OIG-18-32-Dec17.pdf>that, 
at four of five detention facilities it inspected, it found conditions 
“that undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane 
treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” The 
report, issued by the DHS Office of the Inspector General, said that 
medical care may have been delayed and that there was a lack of 
cleanliness at several facilities. “Documentation of daily medical 
visits and meal records for detainees being held in segregation was also 
missing or incomplete,” the inspector general found. “Some of these 
issues may simply be a matter of inadequate documentation, but they 
could also indicate more serious problems with potential misuse of 
segregation.”

Immigrant detainees have also reported physical abuse at a number of 
detention centers. A 2016 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, 
the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the 
Adelante Alabama Worker Center found inadequate medical care and 
widespread abuses at six immigration detention centers in the South. 
“Detained immigrants described being subjected to physical abuse, 
retaliation and excessive use of segregation and lockdown by detention 
center staff and ICE officers,” according to the report 
<https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/ijp_shadow_prisons_immigrant_detention_report.pdf>. 
“There is also a general lack of protection from violence within the 
facilities.”

“It’s not a couple of facilities that aren’t meeting ICE standards, or a 
couple of guards who are racist and abusive,” said Merton. “The entire 
system is treating people the way the Trump administration wants them to.”

While CIVIC, which believes in abolishing the immigration detention 
system, condemned abuses in the system long before Donald Trump was 
elected on a vehemently anti-immigrant agenda, Merton said the last 
administration was much more responsive to complaints. “If there was 
enough public pressure, the Obama administration might have done 
something about individual cases or made policy changes at a particular 
facility,” Merton explained. “Under the Trump administration, it’s like 
they really don’t care that their brutality is being put on full 
display. It seems at times they want the reports to come out to instill 
fear in immigrant communities.”

Clara Long, who researches immigration policy at Human Rights Watch, 
told The Intercept that she has received complaints about ICE officers 
using excessive force when getting people to sign deportation orders, 
“like pulling people’s arm, pushing them to sign, that kind of 
coercion.” (The signing of deportation documents usually happens at ICE 
field offices, not detention centers.)

Another context in which immigrants report excessive force, Long said, 
is when they’re being loaded onto deportation flights, especially for 
people who are being forcibly deported. When ICE tried to deport the 92 
Somalis in December, it was supposed to be a one-way flight. But after 
the immigrants unexpectedly were brought back to the United States, they 
were able to file an administrative complaint. Most deportees don’t have 
the chance to do even that.

“One problem is making sure that people have the opportunity to make a 
complaint, so when you’re talking about a system that’s churning out 
people rapidly,” Long said, “if someone is not coming back and is 
experiencing some sort of an excessive use of force while being while on 
a deportation flight, there’s a huge barrier to be able to make a 
complaint.”

I_n 2009,_ the Obama administration announced a long-term plan to 
overhaul the immigration detention system. Under the reforms, ICE moved 
away from its decentralized network of jails to a system of federal 
oversight. One significant change was the creation 
<http://immigrantjustice.org/sites/immigrantjustice.org/files/2009%20DHS%20Detention%20Reform%20Memo.pdf>of 
the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which was meant to “plan 
and design a civil detention system tailored to ICE’s needs.”

“In 2009, the administration identified a series of reforms that it 
wanted to be implemented immediately, and then over time we identified 
additional areas where improvement was necessary,” said Kevin Landy, a 
former ICE assistant director who headed the office, which had a staff 
of five, from 2010 to 2017.

Under the Trump administration, the office 
<https://www.ice.gov/ero/odpp> has ceased to function as an independent 
unit within ICE. Instead, its staff and work have been “absorbed into 
existing detention management components and will continue as a part of 
ICE’s daily operations,” ICE spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez said. What 
once was a standalone office that reported to the ICE director is now 
effectively a part of Enforcement and Removal Operations, the wing of 
ICE that carries out deportations and is responsible for detaining and 
transporting immigrants in ICE custody. Many of the office’s key policy 
changes, such as the policy directing the use of segregation, remain in 
effect, Rodriguez noted.

One of the biggest steps the office took under the Obama administration 
was the promulgation of what are known as the 2011 Performance-Based 
National Detention Standards, or PBNDS, a revision of the 2008 PBNDS and 
the 2000 National Detention Standards, or NDS. Generally speaking, the 
PBNDS are in force at “dedicated” facilities — centers that house only 
ICE detainees, while the NDS continue to apply at shared-use county 
jails, like Glades.

A 2016 report 
<https://www.immigrantjustice.org/sites/default/files/content-type/research-item/documents/2016-11/Inspections%20Policy%20Brief%20FINAL2%202016%2010%2003.pdf>from 
the National Immigration Justice Center found that the “patchwork 
application of three different sets of detention standards results in 
confusion about which standards are applicable during inspections, and 
uneven protections for detained immigrants.”

The detention standards contain guidance on everything from food in 
detention centers to visitation to religious practices to use of force 
by detention facility staff. They include standards both for detainee 
discipline and grievances, and give detainees the option of filing 
complaints internally or with an ICE field office. Detainees can also 
file civil lawsuits or complain directly to the DHS Inspector General 
and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties offices, and, in theory, to law 
enforcement. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility is another 
body that oversees detention centers and ensures that detention 
standards are abided by.

How well that is ensured is an open question. “It’s problematic when an 
agency is tasked with investigating the abuses that occur under its own 
supervision,” said Merton, noting that an April 2017 complaint 
<http://www.endisolation.org/sexual-assault>CIVIC filed with the DHS 
Office for Civil Rights and Liberties has gone unacknowledged. “ICE 
audits tend to be perfunctory at best. It’s just checking off a list 
without listening to what people in these facilities are saying.”

O_n the evening_ of February 9, some of the toilets in the isolation 
cells at Glades were clogged and spewing sewage on the floor, making 
them impossible to use. The Somali men in segregation complained, and 
one of them, Agane Warsame, asked for a mop to clean his cell. In 
response, officers “sprayed pepper spray through the slots of their 
cells, making them unable to breathe,” according to court records 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391193-Somali-Emergency-Motion-Glades.html>. 
“The officers called the men ‘niggers’ and told them to ‘go back to the 
jungle.’ Glades officers inflicted beatings on Agane Warsame” and 
possibly one other man, according to court records. ICE refuted this 
account in court records 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4392403-ICE-Response-to-Emergency-Motion.html>, 
and said the “claims of excessive force are meritless.”

The filth caused by the overflowing toilets, unbearable for anyone, 
poses a special problem for the Somali men, most of whom are Muslim, 
noted Lehner, the attorney from Americans for Immigrant Justice. “This 
also raises the issue of the facility’s lack of respect for the Somalis’ 
religious faith. They are unable to pray when their cells are filthy,” 
she said, also noting that the facility has refused to provide the 
inmates with religious-compliant meals. (One Jewish Somali man told his 
lawyers that he had repeatedly asked for kosher meals and was 
subsequently placed in isolation, Lehner said.)

Asked to comment on the detainees’ claims, Nestor Yglesias, an ICE 
spokesperson in Miami, sent a link 
<https://www.ice.gov/detention-standards/2000> to the detention 
standards and wrote, “This link addresses how ICE operates every 
center.” In court filings 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4392403-ICE-Response-to-Emergency-Motion.html>, 
ICE said Warsame was being disruptive by yelling and kicking on the door 
of his cell while asking for a mop, spurring other detainees to exhibit 
“disorderly behavior.” Warsame was taken out of his cell “to limit his 
disruptive participation in the ongoing disturbance within the 
segregation unit, and he was pepper sprayed outside of his cell, after 
he became “actively aggressive” and cursed and spit at a guard, 
according to ICE.

Warsame’s lawyers, after hearing about the altercation, rushed to Glades 
to investigate. They found him “so injured he cannot walk” and in a 
wheelchair, with a possibly broken hip, according to court records 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391193-Somali-Emergency-Motion-Glades.html>. 
An incident report from the detention center included details about the 
malfunctioning toilets and the pepper spray, but omitted mention of “the 
documented physical abuse of Mr. Warsame officers,” his attorneys wrote 
in an emergency motion to the court.

Following the incident, Warsame’s lawyers asked the court to order a 
transfer of the Somali detainees out of Glades. “We were really scared 
for people’s lives,” Lehner, who filed the motion 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391193-Somali-Emergency-Motion-Glades.html>, 
said. That effort was unsuccessful.

Under the 2000 National Detention Standards, ICE officer are “under no 
circumstances” allowed to use force to punish a detainee and can only 
use the amount of force necessary “to gain control of the detainee.” 
Under those standards, medical personnel must examine a detainee after 
any use of force and immediately treat injuries. Officers can use 
nonlethal weapons, such as pepper spray, if a detainee is armed or 
barricaded, cannot be approached without endangering himself or others, 
or if a delay in using force to control the situation would seriously 
endanger the detainee or others.

“The use of pepper spray also has to be discussed in advance with 
medical staff, unless that’s not possible,” said Landy. “In my opinion, 
pepper spray should only be used against a detainee already confined in 
a segregated cell only in very rare circumstances.”

At least eight detainees had previously said they experienced abuse at 
Glades, according to an 88-page complaint 
<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4391192-2018-01-08-Glades-Complaint.html> 
the lawyers who are representing the Somalis in their federal lawsuit 
filed on January 8. The detainees had been subjected to physical abuse, 
excessive force followed by denial of medical attention, and inadequate 
medical care, according to the complaint. The Miami-based lawyers, who 
make the 100-mile trek to Glades as needed, including when their clients 
report threats to their safety, have been keeping a meticulous log of 
injuries sustained in detention and the type of medical care that followed.

Warsame said that after he had asked about another detainee who “guards 
had touched for no reason,” he was found guilty of “inciting a 
demonstration” and punished with 30 days in a segregation unit. On 
January 3, Warsame was allowed to take a shower. When a guard took him 
back to his cell, Warsame stuck his wrist out of a slot in the door so 
that the guard would remove his handcuffs. “A guard twisted Warsame’s 
hand so that the handcuff cut into the skin on his wrist, leaving it 
bleeding and swollen,” according to the complaint. “The next day, a 
nurse looked at him, but refused to treat the cuts on his wrist.”

E_very detainee_ admitted to an immigration detention center is given a 
copy of ICE’s detainee handbook 
<https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2017/detainee-handbook.PDF>, 
a 28-page document with information on topics such as meals, dress code, 
and visitation. Also included, about halfway through the handbook, is 
information about filing grievances. It tells detainees what their 
options at the detention facility are — verbal or written complaints, 
emergency grievances, and appeals — as well as how to contact outside 
offices, such as that of the inspector general. The Office of 
Professional Responsibility’s 2017 review 
<https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/reports/annualReportInspectionsOct1_2016_Sep30_2017.pdf>of 
detention facilities found “a higher instance of situations in which 
local facility handbooks and postings were missing mandatory 
information,” including regarding grievance procedures.

The guidance on filing grievances mirrors the policies laid out in the 
agency’s detention standards. Under the 2000 NDS 
<https://www.ice.gov/doclib/dro/detention-standards/pdf/griev.pdf>, a 
detainee must be allowed “to submit a formal, written grievance to the 
facility’s grievance committee. The detainee may take this step because 
he/she is not satisfied with the outcome of the informal process, or 
because he/she decides to forgo the informal procedures.”

“Some facilities have a policy where they encourage verbal over written 
grievances,” said Merton, referring to a policy in the NDS that says 
facilities should try to resolve grievances at the lowest level before 
escalating to a formal complaint. “They basically prevent a paper trail 
by telling folks to just tell a deputy about it. Because there’s no 
oversight, these people are in a really vulnerable position where their 
grievances are not being recorded, and they may not have any contact 
with the outside world.”

At Glades, several Somali detainees said their right to file grievances 
has been impeded. Glades employees “have interfered with our clients’ 
right to make a grievance by threatening them and placing them in 
segregation when they express their intention to file a grievance,” 
according to the administrative complaint.

Warsame said when he asked to file a formal grievance, “the sergeant 
refused, cursing at him, and saying ‘You Somalis are demanding things. … 
This is how we do things in Glade County,’” according to the complaint, 
which ICE declined to comment on. Afterward, he was sent to a 
segregation unit.

“It would be highly inappropriate” for facility staff to retaliate 
against a detainee for filing a grievance, Landy said. If ICE were to 
investigate the Somalis’ complaints and find them to be credible, he 
added, there are, in theory, a few routes the agency could take. “They 
could ask a detention facility to discipline or fire the staff 
responsible. Depending on the contract provisions in effect at the 
facility, ICE could seek to impose monetary sanctions and more likely, 
they could address it informally through communications with the 
facility and a request for implementation of remedial measures.”

The Office of the Inspector General is investigating conditions at 
Glades, following the complaint from the Somalis, Lehner said. 
Investigators have made several trips to the facility, most recently on 
March 1, when they interviewed three of the detainees with complaints, 
she said. The office did not respond to a request for comment

Some of the detainees have reported guards saying things to them like, 
“The reason we’re taking it out on you is that it’s the lawyers fault, 
it’s the Miami lawyers’ fault,” Lehner said. She reported this to Juan 
Acosta, the assistant field office director for the ICE Miami Field 
Office, who told her immediately that it could not be true. (Yglesias, 
the ICE spokesperson in Miami, declined to comment on this account.)

“The thing that’s so appalling about that is that every single time we 
meet with them, they tell us how horrible it is,” Lehner added, “and we 
tell them, ‘Whatever you do, don’t act out, because if you do, they’ll 
take it out on you and they’ll take it out on us.’”

As the investigative process goes on, the Somalis remain in detention, 
hoping for one more opportunity to fight their deportations before an 
immigration judge. If they are unsuccessful in getting their immigration 
cases reopened — or if they’re ultimately met with denials — they will 
be sent back to Somalia, another long journey in ICE custody, with an 
even less certain ending on the ground.


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