In 2015, we filed a formal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties on behalf of 20 men who are currently detained or who have been detained at the Etowah County Detention Center (ECDC).

Complaint filed: July 14, 2015


The complaint alleged that three Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers had been engaged in on-going physical abuse of ICE detainees, intimidation, and additional violations. It also references one Etowah County Sheriff’s deputy.
Etowah County contracts with the federal government to detain approximately 300 men daily in exchange for $45 per person per day at ECDC. These men are not being charged with a crime; rather, they are being held in a form of civil confinement due to their immigration status. The complaint specifically alleged abuse by ICE officers against immigrant detainees, staffing shortages and negligence on the part of Etowah County sheriff’s deputies, the indefinite detention of certain individuals in violation of Supreme Court precedent, at least one case of gross medical neglect, and inadequate food.


Complainants were 20 people in detention who reported on conditions in the Etowah County Detention Center to our staff between 2013 and 2015. Two of the individuals were released recently from immigration detention and are stating their allegations publicly, Sylvester Owino and Miguel Williamson. We protected the identities of the remaining complainants, many of whom fear reprisal. We also protected the identities of the ICE Officers who were accused of misconduct and abuse.
We called for the contract between ICE and Etowah County to be immediately terminated and for an independent investigation into the issues documented in the complaint.
“We are calling for the termination of ICE’s contract with ECDC because both the jail staff and ICE officers at the facility have demonstrated they are incapable of ensuring the safety of people detained,” said Christina Mansfield, Co-Director of Freedom for Immigrants. “I believe the men detained at ECDC experience a blatant disregard for human life every day that is achieved by the jail and ICE staff labeling them as other, as immigrant and criminal, and thus as less deserving of dignity and respect.”
“We are not going to stop until this is done,” said Sylvester Owino.

Read the full complaint. 


Teka Gulema passed away, but ICE has failed to report his death. Mr. Gulema contracted an infection while he was detained in the Etowah County Detention Center. After a failure to properly treat the infection, ICE “released” Mr. Gulema from custody, although he remained immobile in the same hospital bed in Gadsden the ICE had transported him to, thereby avoiding the agency’s obligations to report Mr. Gulema’s death to government entities and the public. His death will not be counted in ICE’s death toll, but we will keep his memory alive.

Read the full complaint.