Groups Call on Napolitano to Fix Conditions at Louisiana Immigration Detention Facility

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Groups Call on Napolitano to Fix Conditions at Louisiana Immigration Detention Facility

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union and several other human rights and
civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Janet Napolitano,
Secretary of Homeland Security, calling on her to fix the deplorable
conditions at the South Louisiana Correctional Facility in Basile.
Conditions at the immigration detention center are so bad that last
week detainees there launched their fifth hunger strike protest. Six
detainees have been sentenced to 60 days in solitary confinement in
retaliation for acting as human rights monitors at the facility.

"Countless firsthand accounts of deplorable and inhumane conditions at
the South Louisiana Correctional facility have been ignored by prison
and immigration officials," said Judy Rabinovitz, Deputy Director of
the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Secretary Napolitano should take
immediate action to fix the conditions which have forced detainees at
the facility to risk their own lives by staging hunger strikes."

In the last month, the facility has become a symbol of national
concerns about Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) widespread
failure to ensure that its facilities - particularly local jails
housing immigrants as part of intergovernmental service agreements -
meet its own minimum standards.

According to the letter, "[n]ot only have a large number of detainees
filed grievances and requested meetings with jail and ICE staff,
detainees have launched four hunger strikes to obtain basic necessities
like soap, toilet paper, communication with their families, and
information about their legal cases. In the face of this human rights
work and peaceful action, ICE and jail staff have responded with
aggressive disciplinary action including blocking detainees' access to
legal representatives."

Over 100 detainees from over 10 countries have served as human rights
monitors exposing inhumane conditions at the facility. Six of those
detainees who acted as human rights monitors in the detention center
and who were perceived as leaders of the hunger strike have been
sentenced to 60 days in solitary confinement after attempting to
communicate grievances to ICE or jail staff, according to the New
Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice.

"Solitary confinement as punishment for speaking out about human rights
abuses is unconstitutional and unconscionable," said Rabinovitz. "Until
there is outside oversight and monitoring of the prisons where
immigration detainees are held, detainees have no choice but to speak
up for themselves."

The letter, sent late last week, asks Secretary Napolitano to allow a
national delegation of detention advocates from across the country to
visit the Louisiana detention center to speak with detainees and
investigate conditions there. It also calls on ICE to release detainees
serving as human rights monitors from solitary confinement and cease
retaliation against detainees for reporting human rights standards; to
arrange a meeting between DHS delegates and human rights monitors at
the jail; and to cancel its contract with the Basile facility if the
violations aren't remedied immediately.

The full text of the letter is available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/nationalsecurity/40579prs20090803.html

A report in which 100 ICE
detainees chronicle abuses they suffered while detained in Basile is
available on the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice at: www.nowcrj.org/

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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