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This past week revealed more examples of abuse by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These agencies use taxpayer dollars to perpetuate cruel and inhumane immigration practices. Congress meanwhile, continues to increase funding for immigration enforcement and detention, while failing to hold the Trump administration accountable.

Here are five examples - just from the past week - of abuses by ICE and CBP against refugees and immigrants:

1) Family Separation: 545 children remain separated from their families

545 children remain separated from their families more than three years after the Trump administration officially ended its family separation policy.

Court documents filed by the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that 545 children remain separated from their families more than three years after the Trump administration officially ended its family separation policy. In its court filing, the ACLU stated that approximately two-thirds of the parents had been deported back to their country of origin in Central America, without their children. This is just one of the long lasting and devastating consequences for families who were separated under the Trump’s administration Zero Tolerance policy.

2) Immigrants from African countries tortured into signing deportation orders

An report by The Guardian found that U.S. immigration officers tortured asylum seekers from African countries to force them to sign their own deportation orders. Immigrants from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo were returned to countries where they face life-threatening conflict and gross human right abuses. In response to the significant acceleration of deportations in recent weeks, Freedom for Immigrants and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal multi-individual complaint detailing how ICE officers coerced and tortured eight Cameroonian men into signing deportation orders. The chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Committee on Homeland Security have demanded ICE halt the deportation flights and investigate these allegations of torture.

3) Unaccompanied minors held in hotels

The Department of Homeland Security extended involuntary stays for unaccompanied minors in hotels. On July 22, the Associated Press reported that at least 169 children were kept in hotels in Texas and Arizona. Further reporting by the New York Times found evidence that ICE has held 972 individuals in hotels across Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, and Washington, all of whom are likely to be unaccompanied children. These young children—some under the age of 5—were housed in hotels for as long as 28 days. These children comprise one of the most vulnerable groups seeking protection and “hoteling” does not provide the type of care and supervision suitable for unaccompanied minors.

4) Illegal Operations in Guatemala

Congress must assert greater authority and accountability over immigration enforcement.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff released a report documenting a reckless immigration enforcement operation in Guatemala. The report details how DHS agents in Guatemala misused State Department funding to rent unmarked vans and contract local drivers to pick up migrants in Guatemala and transport them back to the Guatemala-Honduras border. The January 2020 operation violated an agreement between the State Department and DHS, lacked essential security and safety protocols, and exported the Trump Administration’s practice of refusing to provide screenings for individuals seeking asylum protections.

5) Detainee transfers trigger COVID-19 outbreaks

DHS officials acknowledged that transfers of detained immigrants between facilities “contributed to outbreaks” of COVID-19. Moreover, poor information sharing made tracking and preventing the spread of the virus more difficult. The document also acknowledged that the inability for adequate social distancing within the ICE detention centers contributed to the spread of the disease. ICE has continued to detain and transfer immigrants between facilities despite calls from immigration advocates, policy makers, and religious leaders to end the practice.

These are just the most recent examples of ICE and CBP abuse, neglect, and mistreatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. Congress must assert greater authority and accountability over immigration enforcement. Urge your member of Congress to limit the administration’s overspending on cruel immigrant detention practices and border militarization.

Maria Isabel (Marisa) Leon-Gomez

Marisa León-Gómez Sonet

Legislative Associate, Immigration & Refugee Program
Marisa León-Gómez Sonet served as FCNL’s Legislative Associate for the immigration and refugee program for 2020-2021.

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