In Memory of Jean Carlos Jiménez-Joseph

This week, CIVIC is mourning the loss of two more people who died in immigration detention, Jean Carlos Jiménez-Joseph and Atulkumar Babubhai Patel.  Both of these individuals died within 2 days of each other in Georgia.     

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 5.54.51 PMEl Refugio, which is the CIVIC-affiliated visitation program at the Stewart Detention Center, was in contact with one of these men, Jean Carlos Jiménez-Joseph.  Jean died at the age of 27 at the Stewart Detention Center, after 19 days in a form of solitary confinement.  According to ICE’s Segregation Directive, immigrants should not be held in solitary confinement for more than 14 days. But as the Trump administration curtails the enforcement of ICE’s National Standards, we are bound to see more people fall victim to inhumane detention conditions.

On the morning of Jean’s final day on this earth, a volunteer with El Refugio tried to visit him. The volunteer was denied the ability to visit him.  That evening, Jean was found unconscious in his cell, and ICE reported the death to be self-inflicted.

“This is absolutely shameful and heartbreaking,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-executive director of CIVIC.  “Visitation is empowering, healing, and socially transformative. Receiving a visit while in immigration detention can make a huge difference for a human being who is isolated from the outside world.  Our hearts go out to all who loved Jean.” 

“We are gravely concerned that Jean Carlos may not have received the mental health services he required while detained,” said Marie Marquart, Chair of El Refugio’s Board of Directors. “His solitary confinement may have exacerbated his isolation and further impacted any mental health issues.” This is especially concerning as the effects of solitary have been repeatedly studied and linked to deterioration of mental health.

Please join us in collecting funds for Jean’s family: https://www.gofundme.com/dbxu6-justiceforjean

The Office of Inspector General’s Report on Theo Lacy Facility (March 6, 2017)

CIVIC Volunteers Who Monitor Detention Stand Outside Theo Lacy Facility.

CIVIC Volunteers Who Monitor Detention Stand Outside Theo Lacy Facility.

The Office of the Inspector General seems to have removed the report, entitled Management Alert on Issues Requiring Immediate Action at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, California, from its website. CIVIC is republishing it here because the issues raised in this report remain ongoing concerns for us at Theo Lacy Facility.

Second Immigrant Death at Adelanto Detention Center in Less than Three Week

As the death toll rises in detention, immigrant rights groups demand accountability and transparency

Washington, DC — Immigrant rights organizations, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Detention Watch Network (DWN), Immigrant Youth Coalition, and the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice demand an immediate investigation into the death of Sergio Alonso Lopez. Lopez, 55, died last Thursday while in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being detained at Adelanto Detention Center in California. This tragedy marks the second death to occur at Adelanto this year, after Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba died less than three weeks prior.

“It is appalling that this is the second death to occur at Adelanto in the past three weeks,” said Christina Fialho, Co-Founder and Executive Director of CIVIC. “The Adelanto Detention Facility is known for its substandard medical care.  Since February, we have seen a huge increase in the number of medical complaints coming from Adelanto.   The deaths of Mr. Lopez and Mr. Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, who died in March, should be fully investigated to ensure that theirs deaths could not have been prevented.”

The Adelanto detention center where Lopez died is operated by The GEO Group Inc., a notorious private prison company that has a well-documented track record of abuse, mismanagement and neglect. A total of five people have died there in the five years since it opened. The passing of Lopez brings ICE’s total death count to 170 since 2003 — a shameful record further exposing ICE’s inability to guarantee the safety and health of people in their custody. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention have found that inadequate medical care at detention centers has contributed to numerous deaths.

“The Adelanto detention center exemplifies the systemic abuses found throughout detention centers nationwide,” said Javier Hernandez, executive director at the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. “People are not safe in detention — Adelanto needs to be shut down immediately as a first step to ending the system in its entirety.”

“Community detained in Adelanto often speak about the medical neglect in this facility and even as they attempt to seek medical assistance or make complaints they are always ignored by staff or even transferred when their health keeps deteriorating,” expressed Marcela Hernandez, Deportation Defense Coordinator with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, “these detention centers are a symbol of the worst human rights abuses and we must continue advocating for their closure rather than expansion.”

This death comes the same month that Congress is considering Trump’s request for $3 billion in extra funding to significantly increase the number of people locked up in detention centers and dramatically expand the deportation force. With detention already at a historic high, Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda will come at the expense of immigrant lives and taxpayer’s wallets if approved by Congress.

“We are outraged by the disregard for human life and ICE’s ongoing refusal to meet demands for transparency. Trump’s plan to expand an already deadly detention system will only further exacerbate the abuse and inhumane conditions that have proven to have fatal consequences,” said Gabriela Benitez, organizer at Detention Watch Network.

For more information, contact:

Christina Fialho, CIVIC, CFialho@endisolation.org, 385-212-4842

Carly Perez, DWN, cperez@detentionwatchnetwork.org, 971-219-9750

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Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is the national immigration detention visitation network, which is working to end U.S. immigration detention by monitoring human rights abuses, elevating stories, building community-based alternatives to detention, and advocating for system change.  We have been visiting and monitoring the Adelanto Detention Facility since 2012.  For more information, visit www.endisolation.org.

The Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) is an undocumented and Trans* & Queer youth led organization based in California founded in 2010. IYC’s mission is to mobilize youth, families and incarcerated people to end the criminalization of immigrants and people of color. We organize to create social change that confronts the interlocking systems of oppression. For more information visit www.theiyc.org

Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice is made up of over 30 organizations and community groups in the Inland Empire, and is dedicated to convening organizations to collectively advocate and work to improve the lives of immigrant communities while working toward a just solution to the immigration system. Visit our website, http://ic4ij.org/ or our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/IC4IJ for more information.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.

CIVIC Files Civil Rights Complaint on Rising Sexual Abuse in U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities

Douglas Menjivar (above) was raped in U.S. immigration detention.

Douglas Menjivar (above) was raped in U.S. immigration detention.

Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a national advocacy organization, filed a complaint today calling for a federal investigation into reports of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in immigration detention facilities and for the rapid development of protocols to ensure that all such reports of sexual abuse are thoroughly investigated and that relevant records are disclosed to the public.
 
April 11, 2017, Washington, DC – Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) has filed a federal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detailing the prevalence of reports of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in U.S. immigration detention facilities and the lack of adequate government investigation into these reports.
 
For its complaint, CIVIC analyzed data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for sexual assault data from the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG received at least 1,016 reports of sexual abuse filed by people in detention between May 2014 and July 2016, meaning that the OIG received on average more than one complaint of sexual abuse from people in detention per day during this time period. CIVIC found that the OIG investigated only 24 of those complaints, or 2.4% of the total.
 
CIVIC determined that more complaints were submitted against Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) than any other DHS component agency. In addition to the 1,016 complaints of sexual abuse/assault reported by people in detention, there were 402 complaints of “coerced sexual contact”, 196 complaints of “sexual harassment”, and 380 complaints of “physical or sexual abuse” lodged against ICE.

“The data is particularly disturbing given that rape and sexual assault are known to be highly underreported in immigration detention facilities due to fears of retaliation, social isolation, language barriers, and the knowledge that allegations are not seriously investigated,” said Rebecca Merton, Independent Monitor and Program Coordinator of CIVIC’s National Visitation Network.
 
CIVIC also analyzed data regarding calls made to the ICE ERO Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL) between October 2012 and March 2016. According to this data, the highest number of DRIL calls related to sexual and/or physical abuse incidents came from the Jena/LaSalle Detention Facility, followed by the Houston Contract Detention Facility, Adelanto Correctional Facility, Northwest Detention Center and the San Diego Contract Facility. All top five detention facilities with the most sexual and physical complaints are privately operated.
 
“If the Trump administration is serious about ‘sexual assault awareness and prevention,’ then he can start by adhering to a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse in immigration detention,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-founder/executive director of CIVIC. “If DHS is either unable or unwilling to ensure that zero sexual abuses occur in immigration detention, then Congress should defund immigration detention and close all facilities.”
 
CIVIC is submitting this complaint on behalf of 27 people, including 8 class representatives, who are in immigration detention or have been released from detention and have experienced sexual abuse.
 
One of these individuals, Rosanna Santos, was sexually harassed by a corrections officer in immigration detention at the York County Jail, who told her that if she did not do whatever he said that he would sodomize her. Shortly after filing a complaint about the incident, Ms. Santos was inexplicably placed into solitary confinement for 11 days.
 
“A lot of the girls there had problems like this. Most of them don’t even end up complaining or saying anything about it because they’re scared of retaliation,” said Rosanna Santos, a class representative in the complaint. “Since my complaint, nothing has happened. It is like they want to keep me quiet.”
 
In light of the disturbing reports and numerous sexual abuse allegations detailed in their complaint, CIVIC is urging Congress to establish the second bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) to investigate the effectiveness of PREA in preventing sexual assault and violations of PREA in CBP and ICE detention facilities. CIVIC is also calling on DHS to ensure that all DHS facilities, including all ICE detention facilities and CBP holding facilities, have not only contractually adopted but also implemented the DHS PREA standards, and to proactively and quarterly publish information on all reported complaints of sexual abuse in DHS facilities.

Learn more here: http://www.endisolation.org/sexual-assault

Nicaraguan immigrant held in ICE custody dies; CIVIC calls for independent investigation

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.31.24 PMCIVIC is calling for an independent investigation after a Nicaraguan man, Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, 32, died while in U.S. immigration detention after months of incarceration at a privately-run detention center that has been accused of medical neglect in the past.

Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba was detained on December 29, 2016, near Otay Mesa in Southern California.  He was transferred to and was detained at the Adelanto Detention Facility, a facility run by GEO Group.  ICE reported that Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba was transferred to the hospital from the Adelanto Detention Facility on March 22nd, after GEO staff conducting routine evening rounds at the detention center found him hanging in his cell.  Medical staff at Adelanto called 911, and according to ICE, began efforts to resuscitate him.  Gonzalez-Gadba was rushed to the hospital’s intensive care unit and placed on life support.

Gonzalez-Gadba never regained consciousness.  He passed away early Tuesday morning with the preliminary cause of death being heart failure resulting from asphyxiation.

“The Adelanto Detention Facility is known for its substandard medical care.  Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba’s death should be fully investigated to ensure that his death could not have been prevented,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-founder/co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  

In previous statements released by ICE regarding apparent suicide victims, ICE usually immediately mentions that the suicide victim did not seek medical attention.  However, ICE made no such comment regarding Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba’s death.  Fernando Dominguez Valdivia’s death in 2012 at the Adelanto Detention Facility was deemed preventable by the U.S. Office of Detention Oversight.  CIVIC also has documented disturbing circumstances around the death of Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos in 2015 at the Adelanto Detention Facility.

Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba is the fifth person to die in immigration detention in 2017 according to ICE, and he is the fourth person to die at the Adelanto Detention Facility.  

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Gonzalez-Gadba.

CIVIC Wins Commitment from ICE for Continued Visitation Access

ICE Responds to CIVIC’s Federal Complaint with “Strong Desire” to Facilitate Continued Access to Immigration Detention Facilities

HuffPo_PicCommunity Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is pleased that ICE has committed to facilitate access for community visitation programs for people isolated in immigration detention. ICE’s statement was made in response to CIVIC’s federal complaint filed on March 15th with the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties within the Department of Homeland Security detailing access denials and restrictions in violation of federal policy at 14 immigration detention facilities in Arizona, California, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. CIVIC submitted this complaint in addition to a letter signed by 441 organizations and individuals urging ICE to uphold its commitments to transparency and public access to the detention system.

Within 24 hours, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan responded, indicating that “ICE appreciates the work of CIVIC and other community-based visitation programs” and ICE has a “strong desire” to continue to facilitate our access to immigration detention facilities.  Homan promised to send CIVIC and those who co-signed the letter a response after further review of our complaint.  We believe that this prompt response is a sign that ICE is unable to ignore the widespread concerns over restricted access to immigration detention facilities, which has received coverage in publications including traditionally conservative outlets such as the Washington Times.

We hope to see ICE back up this commitment by enforcing the Stakeholder Access Directive, ICE’s PBNDS on Visitation, and ensuring that visitation programs and family members are allowed continued access at all U.S. immigration detention facilities.  As detailed in CIVIC’s complaint, community visitation programs have faced unwarranted restricted access to immigration detention facilities in recent months. As Christina Fialho, CIVIC’s co-founder/executive director, notes in a Huffington Post article about the complaint, holding immigration detention facilities accountable requires that the public continue to have access to them. With a record number of immigrants being detained under the Trump Administration, it is now more critical than ever that family and community members are not faced with restrictions when visiting people in immigration detention.

While ICE’s response is a welcome development, CIVIC will remain vigilant to ensure that ICE lives up to its commitments and that visitation programs can operate without undue restrictions.
 
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CIVIC is the national immigration detention visitation network, which is working to end U.S. immigration detention by monitoring human rights abuses, elevating stories, building community-based alternatives to detention, and advocating for system change. Join the movement at www.endisolation.org.

ICE Terminates Immigration Detention Contract for the Santa Ana City Jail

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 9.22.58 AMYesterday, ICE gave the City of Santa Ana 90 days notice that it will be terminating its existing immigration detention agreement.  This decision comes a year and 28 days after CIVIC filed a federal complaint against the City and ICE for unlawful and degrading strip searches of transgender and cisgender immigrant women at the Santa Ana City Jail.  Within days of our complaint, we had collected nearly 60,000 signatures in protest of the jail’s unjust practices, and we had defeated along with our partners a city proposal to expand immigration detention in the city.

In the struggle to help the City of Santa Ana become a more welcoming environment to its largely immigrant population, we worked with the City Manager’s office over the last year to develop a stronger understanding of the reality of immigration detention.  In December, the City took a huge step forward by becoming a sanctuary city and decreasing the maximum number of people in immigration detention in Santa Ana.
 
In its announcement yesterday to end its contract with the City, ICE cited as a reason for the contract termination this recent action by the City to decrease the number of incarceration cells at the Santa Ana City Jail for people in immigration detention.  
 
“We have been deeply concerned about the well-being of people detained at the Santa Ana City Jail.  We continue to be concerned about those who will be transferred from the Santa Ana City Jail to another facility.  We urge ICE to release all 74 individuals detained currently at the Santa Ana City Jail.  If ICE is unwilling to do this, we urge the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at DHS to intervene and ensure the release of all asylum seekers eligible for parole,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a nonprofit that visits and monitors immigration detention facilities nationwide and advocates for an end to the detention system.
 
We hope the City of Santa Ana will take this opportunity to not only free itself from the immigration detention system, but also to invest in developing community-based alternatives to detention.  The City issued an RFQ last year to study community-based alternatives to immigration detention.  And the City now has the ability to serve as a true model for the nation, free from the profit-driven motives of the immigration detention system.
 
“The Trump Administration has declared war on immigrants with an expanding detention and deportation force.  But we are now ready to defend ourselves here in Santa Ana.  Immigrants and their allies in Santa Ana and beyond have been fighting against the immigration detention system for the last three decades.  CIVIC has eyes and ears inside this unjust system, and no matter where our community members are detained, we will be there to hold the federal government and individual officials accountable until all immigrants are free,” said Fialho.
 
You can read more in this Los Angeles Times article.

California limits video-only visits!

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 10.49.21 AM
Here is some great news out of California.  Huge shout out to CIVIC’s Christina Mansfield for being at the forefront of this movement to stop video-only visitation in county jails, including many immigration detention facilities.  
 
Last year, CIVIC co-sponsored legislation in California that was just a signature away from outlawing video-only visitation policies.  Since our bill was vetoed, we have been working with the Board of State and Community Corrections to prevent more video-only visitation through the passage of a regulation.  And we are excited to let you know that we along with our many partners have succeeded.  Great work team!
 
Read More Here:

http://www.abc10.com/news/local/california/california-limits-video-only-visits-for-county-jail-inmates/409269010

California limits video-only visits for county jail inmates

Associated Press , KXTV 8:51 AM. PST February 17, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California regulators are pushing back against what had been a growing movement to end in-person visits in county jails.

The Board of State and Community Corrections voted Thursday to require that future jails include space for face-to-face visits.

The board says five of the state’s 58 counties have no in-person visits. Five more counties have no in-person visits in at least one jail, and 10 counties are building jails that will have no room for in-person contact.

The new regulation, adopted on a 7-2 vote, applies only to future jails, not the ones under construction.

Sheriffs have been shifting to video visitation that can save space, requires fewer employees and deters smuggling.

But the board and state lawmakers are encouraging personal visits that they say are healthier and promote rehabilitation.

Copyright 2017 KXTV