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ACLU Says South Florida Private Prison Giant Is Torturing Immigration Detainees

ACLU Says South Florida Private Prison Giant Is Torturing Immigration Detainees

Postby smix » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:23 am

ACLU Says South Florida Private Prison Giant Is Torturing Immigration Detainees
Miami New Times

URL: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/south ... ys-9638995
Category: Prison
Published: September 5, 2017

Description: Boca Raton's GEO Group is one of the most powerful private-prison companies in America — and a major player in state and federal politics. GEO throws campaign money at Florida lawmakers from both parties: Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Gov. Rick Scott, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and the majority of the Florida Legislature have taken thousands from GEO despite constant complaints from progressives and human-rights activists who say the company profits from destroying the lives of others. Well, here's yet another reason Florida politicians should drop GEO Group like the plague: The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that the company is torturing whistleblowers at its private immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado. GEO runs the facility on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the ACLU, ICE agents at GEO's 1,500-bed Colorado detention center are retaliating against Iraqi nationals who have joined an ACLU class-action lawsuit to stop the U.S. from deporting them. The ACLU says employees at the GEO facility are denying Iraqis food, water, and access to the restroom to intentionally make their lives a living hell. "GEO, the second largest immigration detention facility in the country, is a tightly regulated, colorless institution with bare cement walls, large metal doors that lock at every threshold, and scores of prisoners in scrubs," the ACLU writes. "Each of the detainees we interviewed provided accounts of mistreatment. These accounts were consistent, as was their palpable fear of death if ultimately deported to Iraq." The ACLU writes today that the Trump administration agreed to take Iraq off its list of countries covered under the so-called Muslim ban if Iraq agreed to accept ICE deportees. The ACLU has since sued, but the organization now says ICE agents at the GEO facility are trying to make detainees miserable so they choose to get deported. The ACLU writes:
Since the court’s ruling, ICE appears to have ramped up its efforts to make the lives of Iraqis in custody so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” sign away their rights to reopen their immigration cases or pursue asylum. The Iraqis have been singled out and denied food, water, and access to the restroom. One man, who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, reflected that if he goes back to Iraq, he will be tortured and killed. Still, he feels that his experiences at the hands of ICE are “a different way of torture.” He has told his wife that he is considering just signing the form and going back to Iraq. In Arizona and Colorado, and on the plane traveling between the two locations, ICE guards referred to the Iraqis as “camel jockey,” “rag head,” and “terrorist.” Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, “You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis.” When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was “an alien.” ICE guards in Arizona and Colorado have openly pressured Iraqi nationals to sign away their right to fight their immigration cases. Some guards told the detainees that their situations were hopeless and urged them to sign forms agreeing to voluntary deportation, without counsel present. Some Iraqis apparently succumbed to the pressure. The brave men we spoke to have decided to stay and fight.

Miami New Times' sister newspaper Phoenix New Times has covered the plight of Iraqi nationals trapped in an Arizona detention center run by CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America), GEO Group's main competitor. In July, an Arizona judge blocked the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi Chaldean Catholics on the grounds they could be tortured for their religious beliefs and ties to the United States. In 2013, the Huffington Post reported that the CCA/CoreCivic's lobbying firms have donated more than $20,000 to South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In 2011, Wasserman Schultz threw her support behind a plan to build a private, CCA-run immigration facility in South Florida. That decision sparked protests and has cast a shadow over her recent bids for reelection. But of the two companies, it's Boca's GEO Group that remains the major political power in Florida. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP), GEO has given $7.8 million to 885 candidates across the nation over the past 17 years. The group rains money in Florida: It is honestly difficult to find a state politician who has not taken at least a tiny amount of money from the company in that time period. According to NIMSP records, the group has sent checks to the majority of the state Legislature in Tallahassee, Rubio has taken $30,500 from GEO, Curbelo has received $11,000, and Nelson has accepted $5,000. Other recipients include U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Mario Diaz-Balart, Charlie Crist, and Governor Scott. GEO is still donating today: The group gave former state Rep. Jose Feliz "Pepi" Diaz $3,000 in his current race for the state Senate seat vacated by N-word-dropping ex-lawmaker Frank Artiles. Last year, the Miami Herald reported that GEO absolutely vomited cash at state Senate President Joe Negron and his wife Rebecca, who ran for the GOP nomination for Senate last year before Rubio announced his plans to run for reelection. The Herald reported that GEO gave the couple a combined $288,000 in a single election cycle. "It is tragic that these individuals, who fear persecution in Iraq because of their religion and connection to America, are now being persecuted by agents of the United States government," the ACLU wrote last week.



Boca Private-Prison Giant Sued Again Over "Forced Labor" Claims at ICE Detention Centers
Miami New Times

URL: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/boca- ... ms-9947154
Category: Prison
Published: December 29, 2017

Description: Boca Raton's GEO Group is the second-largest private-prison company in America and makes a huge portion of its income imprisoning people on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It has repeatedly denied inmates in its facilities are forced to work against their will. The company rejected those claims in 2014, when a group of former detainees from Colorado filed a lawsuit alleging GEO forced them to work. The company refuted those claims again when the Washington state attorney general sued the company this past September. Last week, California inmate Raul Novoa filed a legal complaint against the South Florida company, alleging that he and other inmates were forced to labor inside a GEO facility and that the company "maintains a corporate policy and uniform practice" of forcing inmates to work for $1 per day, which they need to buy basic necessities such as "food, water, and hygiene products." Novoa's suit, which was first reported by Law360, also contends GEO punishes detainees who refuse to work by throwing them into "disciplinary segregation or solitary confinement," reporting them to ICE, or "referring them for criminal prosecution." GEO is a multibillion-dollar juggernaut and one of the most politically powerful entities in the state. Politicians — including Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Gov. Rick Scott, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and most of the Florida Legislature — have been rightly criticized for accepting major campaign donations from GEO despite the company's abysmal human rights record. GEO maintains ICE facilities across the nation that hold people the government has placed in deportation proceedings. The inmates are civil rather than criminal detainees. But that fact hasn't shielded GEO from accusations of abuse. Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union accused GEO of torturing detainees at its facility in Aurora, Colorado, by withholding food, water, and access to restrooms. The inmates in question were Iraqi nationals who had joined an ACLU lawsuit to halt their deportation proceedings — the civil liberties group claims GEO and ICE were punishing the detainees for speaking out. Inmates at that very same, 1,500-bed Colorado facility sued GEO in 2014, alleging they were paid only $1 per day to perform mandatory, menial tasks at the detention center in exchange for basic, life-sustaining items. In March 2017, a federal judge certified that lawsuit's class-action status, meaning ICE and GEO could be forced to pay back 60,000 inmates if courts find the inmates' rights were violated. Washington state is locked in a fight with GEO over this same issue: State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company in September, alleging GEO's $1-per-day wages at a 1,575-bed facility in Tacoma violate the state's $11-per-hour minimum-wage law. Typically, minimum-wage laws don't apply to prison facilities, but Ferguson argues that because GEO is a private company holding people on civil rather than criminal charges, the wage floor should apply. According to the lawsuit, Novoa, the California inmate, was detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center northeast of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County, which began housing detainees in 2011. Since then, the suit says, more than 73,000 people have passed through the facility in government custody. It has been cited in the past for a series of problems, including accusations of inadequate medical care so pronounced that more than 24 members of Congress wrote a letter expressing concerns about neglect at the facility in 2015. This year, the Detention Watch Network, a group of civil rights advocates, labeled Adelanto the "deadliest" ICE detention center of 2017. In the meantime, Novoa's suit claims GEO is using forced inmate labor to "clean, maintain, and operate" the facility through its Voluntary Work Program, which is anything but voluntary. Detainees scrub floors, clean windows, wash laundry, cut hair, and even perform clerical work for the GEO company for the can't-beat-it price of $1 per hour. Novoa claims GEO uses the work program to avoid paying union employees fair wages, and if inmates refuse to participate, they are sometimes thrown into solitary confinement. In the past, GEO has called similar claims "baseless" and said the company complies with state and federal regulations. “The volunteer work program at all federal immigration facilities as well as the minimum wage rates and standards associated with the program are set exclusively by the federal government,” GEO told Reuters in September. Novoa himself is a Mexican immigrant and green-card-holder who worked a $15.65-per-hour construction job in Los Angeles until he was detained in 2012. He says he was forced to work four-hour shifts "up to seven days per week" as a janitor and barber and spent the little money he made on food and hygiene products. "GEO retained the value of Mr. Novoa’s labor by realizing this value as corporate profits, rather than using it to provide for safer, more humane living conditions for detainees at the Adelanto Facility," the suit claims.
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ICE Is Abusing the ACLU’s Clients Because They are Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine

Postby smix » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:34 am

ICE Is Abusing the ACLU’s Clients Because They are Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine
American Civil Liberties Union

URL: https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-ri ... e-they-are
Category: Prison
Published: August 31, 2017

Description: It was an evening in late July when an ICE guard told France Anwar Elias and several other Iraqi men in immigration custody in Arizona that they were going to be released. France described the feeling as, “going from death back again to life.” The men broke out in tears and embraced one another. Many of them had been in immigration custody for months, unsure of the future and frightened for what could happen if they were deported to Iraq, where they face near-certain persecution, torture, or death. Hours later and only after the men shed their uniforms and changed into regular clothes, the guards broke the news that they were actually just being transferred to yet another immigration detention facility. Kamran Malik said that the news felt like “a knife through the heart.” He had already called his family to tell them that he was coming home, and they were waiting to celebrate. France distinctly remembers a guard saying, with a smirk, “Sorry for the misunderstanding.” This was not a misunderstanding. It was one cruel moment in a series of abuses that the ACLU’s clients have suffered since they entered ICE’s custody in May. They had been transferred by ICE in July to GEO, a privately owned 1,500 bed immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado. The ACLU is deeply concerned about reports of abuse and retaliation by ICE against our clients because of their participation in a nationwide class action suit which seeks to stop the immediate deportation of any Iraqi national in the United States. As members of the ACLU of Colorado’s legal team, we traveled to GEO to meet with the men and document their experiences. GEO, the second largest immigration detention facility in the country, is a tightly regulated, colorless institution with bare cement walls, large metal doors that lock at every threshold and scores of prisoners in scrubs. Each of the detainees we interviewed provided accounts of mistreatment. These accounts were consistent, as was their palpable fear of death if ultimately deported to Iraq. ICE appears to be targeting Iraqi nationals, because these men are fighting President Trump in court. In March, Trump struck a deal with the Iraqi government: If that government accepted individuals deported from the United States, he would omit Iraq from the list of six Muslim-majority countries banned from traveling to the U.S. In May, ICE began making mass arrests of Iraqis with open removal orders with the intent to deport them immediately. Among those arrested were Christians, Kurds, and Muslims. They had been living in the United States for varying lengths of time, many for decades. Many who were swept up are Chaldean Christians, members of a religious and ethnic minority that faces violent persecution in Iraq. Fears of violence have been exacerbated by the rise of ISIS, which has also targeted Sunni and Kurdish Muslims. All of these men have reason to believe that living in America will mark them as targets for persecution by ISIS or other groups should they return to Iraq. Deporting people to a country where they are likely to face violent persecution is not only immoral; it is against American and international law. That’s why the ACLU is fighting in court to allow these individuals time to reopen their cases and prove the danger which awaits them in Iraq. In late July, a federal district judge blocked the federal government from immediately deporting anyone and extended our class action to include Iraqis with final orders of removal nationwide. But the fight is not over to ensure that everyone gets a chance to make their case before an Immigration judge. Since the court’s ruling, ICE appears to have ramped up its efforts to make the lives of Iraqis in custody so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” sign away their rights to reopen their immigration cases or pursue asylum. The Iraqis have been singled out and denied food, water, and access to the restroom. One man, who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, reflected that if he goes back to Iraq, he will be tortured and killed. Still, he feels that his experiences at the hands of ICE are “a different way of torture.” He has told his wife that he is considering just signing the form and going back to Iraq. In Arizona and Colorado, and on the plane traveling between the two locations, ICE guards referred to the Iraqis as “camel jockey,” “rag head,” and “terrorist.” Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, “You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis.” When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was “an alien.” ICE guards in Arizona and Colorado have openly pressured Iraqi nationals to sign away their right to fight their immigration cases. Some guards told the detainees that their situations were hopeless and urged them to sign forms agreeing to voluntary deportation, without counsel present. Some Iraqis apparently succumbed to the pressure. The brave men we spoke to have decided to stay and fight. The ICE guards have no idea whether the detainees have a valid basis to fight their removal. Some detainees said the guards mocked the lawsuit, saying that it would fail. This psychological manipulation is clearly being done to cause distress in those choosing to participate in the legal action. It is tragic that these individuals, who fear persecution in Iraq because of their religion and connection to America, are now being persecuted by agents of the United States government.
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