In 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was accused of abusing immigrant women in detention facilities. In light of these serious accusations, a motion filed in the U.S. District Court has authorized the government to freeze planned deportations of women who have come forward with abuse claims. The motion is, understandably, a significant reprieve for the women in ICE detention facilities. It also gives hope to their families that there could be potential for tighter ICE regulation and protection for immigrants backed by the federal government in the future.
Allegations of Abuse
In Ocilla, Georgia, the Irwin County Detention Center has been at the center of recent abuse allegations. The accounts recall instances of unwanted procedures, including sterilization, performed on female detainees. So far, LaSalle Corrections, the private operator of the Ocilla facility, has denied claims of abuse.
The case began when a nurse at the facility filed a whistleblower lawsuit detailing possibly questionable gynecological procedures, a lack of COVID-19 testing, and disposal of medical records. ICE has repeatedly denied the claims, but a federal investigation is underway nonetheless. For many immigrants and their families, their primary concern is the safety of their detained loved ones. These recent claims have further reinforced the feelings of uneasiness and fear among immigrant families in the U.S.
A member of the House Judiciary Committee has been outspoken about the claims of unethical medical practices, saying, "[…] for every woman in particular across America, this sends chills up our spine."
Her statement shows how these allegations are frightening female immigrants and citizens alike across the nation. Human rights organizations have questioned the treatment of immigrants in detention facilities for some time, and this latest scandal only enforces those suspicions.
ICE Policies in Recent Years
There has been an uptick in ICE arrests in the past few years. Many of the arrests are the result of detainers. However, detainers have limits and are not official warrants. Detainers provide an immigration hold that allows ICE agents 48 additional hours after release to determine whether the individual will be in federal custody. State and local law enforcement are often responsible for carrying out some of the arrests.
The use of detainers to imprison immigrants without due process raises concerns among localities across the United States. Law enforcement is at risk of litigation and damages when they make arrests on an ICE detainer's orders, and as a result, many are voicing concerns about how the detainer arrests could affect their communities.
Some have taken steps to limit the power of ICE requests in their state. For example, Miami Dade County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution stating that ICE detainers will be honored if the country receives federal reimbursement. Also, detainers carried out by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation only apply to immigrants with felony convictions or nonbondable offense charges. The arrests and abuse allegations further illustrate a troubling lack of transparency from ICE.
How Does Deportation Work?
Deportation in the U.S. is based on the Grounds for Deportation in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which applies to two categories of immigrants: immigrants who wish to enter the U.S. but have not received admission, and immigrants who have been admitted but are at risk for deportation because of a conviction.
Grounds for inadmissibility, or denying entry into the country, cover several categories of grievances. Individuals cannot immigrate if they do not have proper documentation or have attempted to enter the country illegally. Grounds for inadmissibility also include health-related restrictions that have become critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inadmissibility is a crucial consideration for families considering immigration into the United States or have family members already present. Deportation, on the other hand, is a terrifying reality for many immigrants currently in ICE detention facilities.
ICE has deported at least six alleged victims of abuse at Irwin County Detention Center. Other women are at imminent risk of deportation, according to investigators. This raises concerns about the legality of ICE and its lack of transparency. Deportation occurs when an immigrant has broken one or more laws, received a criminal conviction, or is in violation of their visa, but changes to immigration under the Trump administration have led to deportations over misdemeanors in addition to criminal charges.
The freeze on deportations does not guarantee that the women will not face removal in the future, but it does give the authorities time to investigate the claims.
As ICE has grown in power over the last several years, arrests and detainers have often increased unlawfully. Regulations regarding ICE detainers have been slow to start, but they are a welcome improvement.
The allegations from women in the Irwin County Detention Center are a grim reminder to lawmakers, advocates, and constituents to usher in reforms that protect immigrants from inhumane treatment on American soil. However, there is hope for immigrants and their families, and the freeze on deportations at Irwin County is a step in the right direction.
Helping Immigrants Achieve Their American Dream
As immigration in the U.S. evolves, legal experts are also changing. Our firm’s attorney, Guerra Sáenz, was once an immigrant facing deportation. He has come a long way since then, and has handled over 1,000 cases, become a Board Certified expert in immigration law, and is ranked highly by his clients and peers. He knows the fear and uncertainty surrounding deportation and uses his personal experiences to help lead other immigrants through the legal process.
If you have questions about immigration in the U.S. or you are facing deportation, contact Guerra Sáenz, PL at (954) 466-0323 or visit us online today.