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Shocking New York Times article uncovers efforts to conceal immigrant deaths in detention

A New York Times article has revealed scathing information about grave abuses of power by immigration officials desperate to conceal the deaths and mistreatment of immigrants in detention. This includes covering up evidence of gross mistreatment, undercounting the number of detention deaths, discharging patients right before they die, and major efforts to avoid scrutiny from the news media.

The article states,

Behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.

In one case, it was found jail personnel had made a fake entry to show painkiller medication had been given to an inmate, when in actuality the log showed that the drug had been administered once the inmate had died, driven to suicide by unbearable pain. In another case, officials justified an inmates lengthy detention despite his poor medical condition by mischaracterizing his criminal record.

Perhaps the most shocking example is that of Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who suffered a head injury and was put into solitary confinement for 12 hours before an ambulance was called.The article says,

“In the agency’s confidential files was a jail video showing Mr. Bah face down in the medical unit, hands cuffed behind his back, just before medical personnel sent him to a disciplinary cell. The tape shows him crying out repeatedly in his native Fulani, ‘Help they are killing me!’”

The video, shot by detention officials as a policy when force is used on a detainee, was obtained along with thousands of documents on the 107 deaths in immigration custody, through Freedom of Information Acts filed by the New York Times and the ACLU. These documents clearly show how Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have covered up examples of abuse and neglect, withheld important information regarding detainee abuse and deaths, and desperately tried to deflect media scrutiny.

Bah’s story was the basis for our End Homeland Guantamos campaign, where visitors assume the role of an undercover journalist doing an investigative series on what actually happened to Boubacar Bah.

Many, including the news media, advocacy groups and Members of Congress have been calling for reform in the immigration detention system. And while the Obama Administration has vowed to overhaul immigration detention, it seems somewhat meaningless unless there is a shift in the way the agency operates – away from an environment of secrecy to one government by enforceable standards and oversight. But the administration has rejected the idea of standards, arguing that “rule-making would be laborious, time-consuming and less flexible” than its own overhaul.

That’s why we need real public pressure. STOP THE SENSELESS DEATHS NOW by urging your Congressional members to support Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) which provides secure alternatives and the codification of standards to ensure humane detention conditions.

One Response to “Shocking New York Times article uncovers efforts to conceal immigrant deaths in detention”

    Carl McGinnis says:

    This post comes from Carl McGinnis, a citizen of the United States, who has seen the horrors of immigrant detention after ICE detained his legal immigrant friend. He tells us that it is not just about undocumented immigrants but even people who follow the rules get burned in our archaic and inhumane immigration system].
    I am a citizen of the United States and I have a friend that is from Paris, France here on a student visa with a double Masters Degree and working on his PhD in International Finance. He has been here since 2005. His visa is valid until March of 2010, his passport is valid until 2014, and his I-20 is current. He is not what people call an ‘illegal immigrant.’ In 2007, he fell in love and in Dec. 2008 married a U.S. citizen that just happens to be addicted to prescription medications. He knew nothing about this. But he was arrested due to her mistakes. The reality is that his American wife was taking advantage of him and when his money was gone so was she. Janet Napolitano just wants to deport him rather than correct the problem, and make the American accountable. This is wrong. We should have some sort of protection built into the system. Judge Rex Ford would not listen to reason without the wife in court and all witnesses were not given time to testify. This is not what I thought American Justice was all about. I was wrong. It is all a game our Government plays with our lives.
    He was placed in detention and scheduled for deportation. He has been in the detention center in Pompano Beach Florida for 5 months now. This couple has lost all there savings on lawyers, she lost her job, and they are in the process of losing their home. All this was caused because ICE has the wrong person in jail.
    I have written many letters to Janet Napolitano, Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Ginny Brown-Waite and even President Obama. But no one will listen. What is illegal in this case is the way DHS is treating this guy, who is 51 and has never had a traffic violation. While in the detention center, He has been beaten by another inmate and suffered cracked ribs and bruised body, denied him food and proper medical treatment.He is diabetic and they will not give him the proper food or medical attention. The phone system is very poor and hardly works. I suspect that they plan it that way so the detainees cannot contact their lawyers and family. I fear he will be next on the long list of persons that have died while in detention. I beg for someone to go and listen to his story. They do not allow any form of media in because they don’t want anyone to know what they are doing.
    Until you go to one of these detention centers and see with your own eyes, you will not believe what America is doing. I was shocked, on my first visit and after almost 6 months of seeing what happens and how they have to live, I am still in shock. It is all about the money. My friend has never cost America anything until they locked him up. He is in a private prison owned by a company called GEO based near Miami, Florida. They are paid very well by our tax dollars, but the treatment is unbelievable. I wonder how many politicians have stock in this company. They are doing quite well even in a bad economy.
    Six months ago I had no idea that we treated immigrants in this way, especially when they are here legally and have done nothing wrong. I knew nothing about ICE and how they operate illegally. I was under the impression that DHS was here only to protect us from terrorists. And I had no idea of the millions of our tax dollars were being wasted to imprison people that could be out of detention and have their family support them until a decision is made in immigration court. I do not understand why we have to pay our hard earned tax dollars to house and feed persons that are not dangerous.
    When they have to lock up a man who has done nothing wrong, make him spend thousands in fees, ICE is giving way too much importance to them selves. How can we turn such educated people away simply to boost the ego of ICE officers and add another number to the Janet Napolitano deportation list, so that the Obama Administration can look like it is doing its job of ‘cracking down on criminals?’
    Something has to change soon. I feel it is my duty as an American to let as many people as possible know the truth. I visit the detention center every Saturday and spend the rest of the week writing letters. This New Year, lets do something worthwhile. Let’s go back to protecting the country rather than making up stories to justify the expansion of a national security complex. Let’s end businesses profiting from immigrant detention and restore our image as a nation of immigrants. May God forgive American for what we are doing.

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