Wednesday April 3, 2019
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A new report alleges approximately 80 African immigrants were victims of abuse at the West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, Texas. The report features interviews with 30 of the 80 men, and details their experiences from Feb. 23 until March 2, 2018.
The report was published by the Texas A&M University's School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. The men included Kenyan and Sudanese nationals, but the vast majority, 68 of them, were from Somalia.
The allegations made by the interviewed immigrants include physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, including racist language.
"The Warden of the WTDF hit me in the face four times while I was at the nurse’s station. I asked two of the medical officers who were present, ‘Are you going to let this happen?”’ said Delmar, one of the immigrants interviewed for the report. "They responded, 'We didn’t see anything.’”
All of the men reported being pepper sprayed, and 14 of the 30 interviewed reported being physically assaulted by officers.
“The assistant United States attorney for the Western District of Texas responded right away and they did say they had forwarded the information to the El Paso division of the FBI,” said Diana Tafur, a supervising attorney with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “[The] horrific abuse rose to violate various federal crimes as well as civil violations.”
ICE officials denied such abuses but vowed to look into wrongdoing in a released statement.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, takes very seriously any allegations of misconduct or unsafe conditions,” said ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa in a statement to The Intercept. “ICE maintains a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive behavior, and requires all staff working with the agency to adhere to this policy. All allegations are independently reviewed by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility. ICE has not been made aware of any allegations prior to this initial reporting from RAICES.”
These allegations come just weeks after other reports of abuse of Somali immigrants were made public.