A new report has detailed the shocking conditions in which immigrants and asylum seekers — men, women and children — are being detained in the Midwest of the United States. It offers a snapshot of six facilities, but the conditions they found are replicated across the country.
“Over 320,000 immigrants locked up each year not only face tremendous obstacles to challenging wrongful detention or winning their immigration cases, but the conditions in which these civil detainees are held often are as bad as or worse than those faced by imprisoned criminals,” says the report.
The report found:
· Detainees going hungry from lack of food
· No heating through harsh Mid-Western winters
· Complaints ignored and those complaining placed in segregation
· Intimidation by staff
· Inadequate and dirty uniform clothing provided
· Inadequate or absent health care, placing lives at risk
· Poor or absent hygiene
Not Too Late for Reform, authored by Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR), focuses on three county jails — Jefferson County Jail and Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois and Boone County Jail in Kentucky.
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In Jefferson, conditions are punitive and inhumane and breach national standards on how immigration detainees are supposed to be treated. Detainees spend the day hungry because they lack food and report getting a hot meal only once every two weeks. Even in the summer, individuals huddle under blankets because of cold temperatures and inadequate clothing. Detainees with medical and mental health issues are told that they need to pay to see a doctor, which indigent individuals cannot afford.
Tara Tidwell-Cullen, director of communications at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, told International Business Times:
The important thing to note straight off with the detention standards is they’re not law so not enforceable. If the detention facilities ignore them there’s not really a legal process by which they can be challenged so it doesn’t really provide a whole lot of oversight so we see them consistently violated with few to little consequences.
Often, detainees at Jefferson are required to buy basic hygiene items. They receive jail uniforms and undergarments that are torn, stained and threadbare. Because laundry service is inconsistent, detainees are forced to wear soiled clothes week after week. Staff is rude and condescending, and detainees are too intimidated to report grievances. In the rare instances when grievances are filed, complaints are ignored or dismissed without merit.
At Boone detainees fear for their safety because they are often intermingled with criminal detainees. Like Jefferson, the jail is kept cold year-round and officials are discriminatory and nonresponsive to requests for assistance.
A NIJC client said:
Within one day of my arrival at Boone, I told the nurse that I am HIV-positive. She said that she would call the clinic to obtain my medical history. I also complained of depression and high blood pressure and informed a second nurse that I am HIV-positive. This nurse also promised to make a doctor’s appointment, but now almost six weeks have passed and I have never received any medication. Nothing has changed since I was moved to Tri-County. I told the nurse right away about my HIV status but still no exam and every day goes by without my pills.
Picture by Carrie Sloan
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