Statement in Response to Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office

“The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office has pledged to take seriously the allegations made by a group of women detained at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.

But calling these reports “misleading” is the exact opposite of taking them seriously. What is happening at West County is not an anomaly. It is the status quo across immigration detention facilities in the U.S.

Instead of trying to discredit the women’s reports of harsh living conditions, the Sheriff’s Office should focus its energy on rectifying the issue immediately and launching a fully independent investigation.”

— Christina Mansfield, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, CIVIC 

Lawyers File Litigation Hold to Preserve Sexual Assault Records of People in Immigration Detention

LOS ANGELES – Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) are putting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on notice over ICE’s plan to destroy the records of immigrants in detention, including deaths in custody, solitary confinement and sexual assault.
 
In late August, ICE petitioned the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for permission to start routinely destroying 11 kinds of records on several proposed timelines.  CIVIC and CREEC sent ICE a litigation hold letter which, according to Tim Fox, an attorney and the Co-Executive Director of CREEC, “places ICE on notice that litigation may be commenced concerning the topics covered in the letter, and thus ICE has a duty to preserve related documents, and this is true even if NARA approves ICE’s petition.”
 
“These records are vital to anticipated litigation. They are essential to obtaining justice for those individuals who’ve needlessly suffered at the hands of government officials,” says Christina Fialho, an attorney and the Co-Founder/Executive Director of CIVIC.
 
Earlier this year, CIVIC filed a civil rights complaint after uncovering, through a Freedom of Information Act request, widespread sexual abuse, assault and harassment in U.S. immigration detention facilities. CIVIC uncovered that between January 2010 and July 2016, Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General received over 33,000 complaints of sexual assault or physical abuse against DHS’s component agencies.  But the Inspector General investigated less than 1 percent of these cases.
 
For example, Rosanna Santos was sexually harassed by a male guard at the York County Jail in Pennsylvania while she was in immigration detention.  She was one of the named complainants in CIVIC’s federal civil rights complaint earlier this year. Rosanna says, I spoke out about the sexual harassment so that something would be done for all those other women I knew who were being silenced. Destroying the evidence is not going to erase our traumatic memories or help bring those who are responsible for sexual violence to justice.
 
The federal government has shown no interest in a proper and full investigation. And now, it wants to destroy sexual abuse and assault records. That won’t happen on our watch.
 
“We won’t let ICE willfully destroy evidence of systematic wrongdoing,” said Fialho. “ICE is now on notice that if they try to destroy these records, they will be subject to legal consequences.”
 
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CIVIC is a national nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, California, with a mission to abolish the U.S. immigration detention system.  In addition to providing independent oversight of the U.S. immigration detention system, CIVIC also challenges immigration detention practices.  Learn more atwww.endisolation.org.
 
CREEC is a non-profit located in Denver, Colorado, with a nationwide scope whose mission includes investigating and filing impact and class-action lawsuits on a broad array of civil rights issues. Learn more at www.creeclaw.org.
 

Trump’s Immigration Efforts Targeting Children Are Inhumane

 
The question we all need to be asking ourselves is, what does it say about our country when we lock up children in immigrant prisons? It is not only inhumane, but also runs counter to our values and ideals. 
 
There are already very few laws or regulations that protect people in immigration detention, and minors are a vulnerable population. A legal agreement the administration is targeting is known as the Flores Settlement, which is one of the only requirements that provides some regulation over child immigration detention.  
 
We will not allow one of the few legal protections child migrants have to be scrapped at the whim of one man.”
 
-Christina Fialho, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

OIG’s Report On DHS’s Immigration Enforcement & Administration

“The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General released a report detailing shortcomings in immigration enforcement and administration within DHS’s component agencies, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In its report, OIG recommended that the agency develop a unified approach for strategy and oversight through the creation of a department-level group.

If DHS is committed to this approach, we believe one area where it could improve upon is by creating a uniform system for filing complaints against component agencies, for example, which would be beneficial to those directly impacted by the system, such as asylum seekers, legal permanent residents and others in their custody.

We also believe the department-level group should be independent of the DHS and should be a congressionally-appointed committee.”

-Christina Fialho, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Trump Calls For End To Diversity Visa Lottery Program

Following the tragic attack in New York City, President Donald Trump announced that he wants to end the Diversity Visa Lottery Program saying, “We’re going to quickly as possible get rid of chain migration and move to a merit-based system.”

His response to the attack is not only misguided and based on fear, but it is also exploitative, seeking to further his administration’s attempts to curtail immigration. When the president uses phrases like “chain migration,” he essentially wants to make it more difficult for families to immigrate and stay together. Language matters.

We fear that ending the Diversity Visa Lottery Program may signal the beginning of other policies aimed to keep people apart.

-Christina Fialho, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder, CIVIC