Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Federal agents allegedly abuse detainees. Take action! Tell them: Not in our name!

Readers here learned about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Postville, IA last May. It was (at that time) the largest ICE raid ever conducted. Almost 400 undocumented workers were rounded up and arrested. It started a chain reaction that has spun out of control, wreaking havoc in the lives of thousands.

Now this, from the National Immigration Justice Center: these unfortunate workers affirm that they were mocked, injured, and needlessly hurt in the process by federal officers conducting the raid. The courageous Florida International University Professor Erik Camayd-Freixas interviewed 94 detained immigrant workers in Florida this fall before they were deported to Guatemala. Two of them provided statements detailing the abuse. Camayd-Freixas has given permission for the affidavits to be posted online. Download the PDF file here.

Two Guatemalans, Marvin Danilo Perez-Gomez and Mardoqueo Valle-Callejas, describe being kept awake for more than 48 hours, shackled. They claim people were humiliated when taken to the bathroom, and, worse, that they received threats and violence.

From the affidavit of Marvin Danilo Perez-Gomez:

That day they had us suffering hunger. I had started my shift at 4:00am, and they didn't give me anything to eat until 10:00pm. I felt my head was going to explode. In Waterloo [National Cattle Congress] they kept me sitting down without my sweatshirt and barefoot in the cold from 8:00pm to 2:00am, while they arranged the paperwork. Then they put me in one of the cages where they had the cots for sleeping. But they did not let us sleep at all for 48 hours. They kept coming every so often to run the scanner over the barcode of a bracelet they had put on us. They would come in shouting: "Wake up!" There were also cages with women. Those who asked to go to the bathroom were told not to be such a nuisance, and whenever they were finally taken, it was with four guards or chained, amid mockeries and humiliations. They made us eat and drink in shackles, and you had to lean way over sideways on the chair in order to sip a bit of water from the bottle. Then they would mock us for the way we walked with the chains, and since our clothes were too long on account of our short height, they would tell us "You look like clowns." I, when they would tell me all of those insults and humiliations, all I could see were the faces of my daughters, and I would cry.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff need to investigate these sworn statements which contradict the testimonies given by officials from the Attorney General's office and the ICE Office of Investigations during a House Immigration Subcommittee hearing in July 2008. Camayd-Freixas and a team of researchers at FIU have started compiling information about allegations of abuse of detainees by ICE officers during raids. "This is a trend nationwide, which is just now starting to be documented," he said.

VivirLatino suggests: From reading just two affidavits, one gets a tiny sense of the horror experienced by hundreds. Multiply that experience by the number of ICE raids that have happened across the country. The affidavits also reveal the criminality of the businesses, who violated a number of labor laws, not to mention international human rights law, and just basic laws of human decency.

We will stand for justice and denounce oppression! Our proud nation cannot tolerate abuse in the name of our citizens.

The 111th Congress opens in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2009. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to speak to your senators and representatives, and tell them that fair immigration reform that ends inhumane detention and deportation practices must be a priority for 2009.


Randal Graves said...

Dems will have Congress and the White House. No more built-in excuses, though I'm sure they'll try their damndest to come up with some.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is horrible.

eProf2 said...

Sorry, BE, but I don't know why this surprises you any. The use of torture and abuse was approved five or six years ago by the President of the United States and the Vice President. If it's good enough to use torture against alien combatants, surely it's good enough to use against "illegal aliens," too. Sorry to be so cynical about this but I'm hoping that the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, will go after Bush and Company as war criminals. Probably not going to happen, but the damage they caused goes all the way to the lowest levels of the hierarchy in our society, including border agents, prison guards, police on the street, et cetera. The damage BushCo has done is so depraved that I wonder if we'll be able to ever reverse course. I'm a natural optimist so I'm hopeful.

Border Explorer said...

Randal: Yes, let's see what they do. Or does Repub/Dem=Tweedledum/Tweedledee?

Ruth: I think so.

eProf: Point taken; however, I refuse to allow myself to accept that kind of reality as status quo (even if it is!).