VISITATION DENIALS AND RESTRICTIONS
A month and a half after Trump's inauguration in 2017, organizations across the country documented multiple denials of requests to conduct stakeholder tours and visitations.
We then filed a federal complaint calling for a federal investigation into ICE stakeholder tour and visitation denials and restrictions and for the rapid development of protocols to ensure that public access to immigration detention facilities is maintained.
We did win a written commitment from ICE for continued visitation access. Within 24 hours of filing the complaint, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan responded, indicating that “ICE appreciates the work of [Freedom for Immigrants] and other community-based visitation programs” and that ICE has a “strong desire to continue to facilitate” our access to immigration detention facilities.
ICE’s Stakeholder Access Directive, established in 2011, provides a point of connection with the community for detained individuals and allows organizations to monitor and report on conditions inside detention facilities.
Without access to immigration detention facilities, we can't hold the U.S. government responsible and we can't obtain justice for immigrants.
In March 15, 2017, we filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties within the Department of Homeland Security detailing access denials and restrictions in violation of federal policy at 14 immigration detention facilities in Arizona, California, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Over 400 organizations and individuals joined us in an additional letter urging Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to uphold its commitments to transparency and public access to the detention system by maintaining the 2011 Stakeholder Access Directive and ensuring that community members are not faced with additional restrictions when visiting people in immigration detention.
Organizations who signed on include groups, such as the NAACP, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Detention Watch Network, Southern Poverty Law Center, Code Pink, and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
EXAMPLES OF RESTRICTIONS AND DENIALS
One example of a stakeholder access denial took place in February 2017, when ICE’s Washington Field Office denied a stakeholder tour and visitation of the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia that had been requested by the DC Detention Visitation Network, the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, and the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville.
An Assistant ICE Field Office Director stated in his denial: “With the issuance of the recent Executive Orders, ICE is undergoing significant operational changes and is in the process of reviewing all ongoing programs, so are not initiating new programs such as the one you are proposing at this time.”
In another February 2017 access denial, ICE cancelled a tour and legal intake session at the Santa Ana City Jail in California which had been requested by the Transgender Law Center and had previously been approved. The sudden cancellation email stated that the tour and legal intake session was no longer viewed as “consistent with the security and orderly operation of the facility.”
We also documented multiple restrictions on stakeholder tours and visitations. During a stakeholder tour conducted by our organization in March 2017 at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, many detained individuals who had signed up ahead of time to meet with the stakeholders were not allowed to speak with them. In one of the dorms, not a single person who had requested to meet with the stakeholders was granted the opportunity to do so.
In a letter sent to us from H.M., an individual detained at Adelanto Detention Facility, he wrote, “I highly suspect it had to do with [facility owner and operator] GEO’s institutional staff preventing our visits. This is not the first time this, or something similar, has happened.”