Undocumented immigrants held in solitary confinement at a California federal detention center were given insufficient medical care and spoiled food, says a draft Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, according to media reports.
Most of the detainees were held for two months, but two suffered in confinement for over 300 days at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, located in Calexico, Ca., reports Buzzfeed News.
Solitary confinement was being used as a “long term ‘solution” for incarcerated immigrants in “protective custody” said Buzzfeed.
Protective custody is used for those considered in need of “special supervision or housing due to risks for their safety,” according to the Hill.
Protective custody is furthered when immigrants are seen to be at high risk of harm to themselves or others, in which the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency can put them in what’s called “administrative segregation.”
Immigrants in administrative segregation were kept within their cells for 22-23 hours per day.
While solitary confinement is used in prisons and jails across the country, the draft also found that in some cases there was a lack of evaluations on those in solitary confinement, insufficient medical care and recreation time, which is supposed to be required for an hour a day.
This exacerbates the negative effects of solitary confinement on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.
The draft report also claims that the facility served moldy or expired food. The federal inspectors said facility managers failed to note the expiration date on frozen food items.
This reflects the way many incarcerated people receive food while incarcerated, as reflected in a report by Impact Justice earlier this month.
It wasn’t the first time that ICE has had problems giving incarcerated immigrants proper care and service this year.
According to Buzzfeed News, “ICE detainees died after receiving inadequate medical care and that jail workers ‘falsified records to cover up’ issues,” which was revealed by the House Oversight Committee in September.
Greg Archambeault, a lead ICE official in the region, said “We are firmly committed to prioritizing the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in our care and custody.”
The operators of the California facility said the draft report was inaccurate.
“We disagree with the initial claims made in the draft IG report,” said Issa Arnita, spokesperson for Management and Training Corporation, the company running the facility.
“We have thoroughly reviewed the claims and provided a detailed response to the IG to correct the information reported in the draft report. We have not yet heard back from the IG regarding our responses.”
Arnita denied most of the claims in the report, saying that the facility follows policy for special housing, that immigrants kept in the facility have access to outdoor recreation, medics were visiting daily and the incarcerated weren’t served anything expired.
Treatment of immigrants held in ICE facilities becomes even more important with the discussion of the administering of the coronavirus vaccine.
Prison facilities alone already face uncertainty on whether or not they will receive the same priority as others in congregate settings.
While an open letter published Thursday calls for the inclusion of immigrants in specific immigration detention centers to also get equal priority, there’s no guarantee.
Although Biden has claimed immigration a priority for 2021, the last month of President Trump’s presidency looms over those held in immigration facilities, with little guarantee of sudden and revolutionary change.