Trump and Persecution

Concentration Camps

          As we discussed in the preceding module, ICE facilities and detention centers have been embraced by the Trump Administration as a tool to displace and hold immigrants in a concentrated location. Since the initiation of these detention centers, historical scholars have noted the facilities utilized under the Trump Administration are classifiable concentration camps. According to Merriam-Webster, a concentration camp is defined as “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard.” Furthermore, we must be cognizant of the differences between extermination camps and concentration camps, for “not every concentration camp is a death camp—in fact, their primary purpose is rarely extermination, and never in the beginning. Often, much of the death and suffering is a result of insufficient resources, overcrowding, and deteriorating conditions.”

           This definition definitively reflects the realities of ICE detention facilities under the Trump Administration. A system which operates to detain exclusively immigrants in prison-like conditions, with extensive histories of neglecting the basic human rights and dignities of immigrant detainees, is a concentration camp. These camps have spread across the United States, imprisoning children, men, and women all due to their immigration status, or lack thereof, with little federal government oversight. Furthermore, the system is designed to separate children from their parents and guardians, and to relocate the children to facilities far from their parents. 

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Monitors photographed families in overcrowded cells at a Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas, on June 11, 2019

            According to various reports, immigrant children detained by the United States are forced to care for younger children also held in detention facilities. This revelation is astonishing, considering the children themselves are grappling with the emotional trauma of being separated from their parents, and imprisoned in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar language. In a report, the New York Times said that “children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met … Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Lawyers who spoke with the Times confirmed that they had observed similar scenes involving dirty, neglected children, often being surrogate-parented by other children, at six other facilities along the border.” At the McAllen, Texas facility, an inspection found a teenage girl caring for a premature baby. An advocate speaking with USA Today described the baby as needing a heart monitor, but CBP officers only offered a sweatshirt to keep the infant warm. 

            The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, an independent investigatory office, examined immigration detention facility inspection reports from 2015 to 2018. Its findings identified 14,003 instances in which staff violated detention standards and the treatment of detainees. Despite this excessive quantity of violations, only two facilities were issued fines for inadequate staff pay and substandard care of immigrant detainees. Following the release of this report, USA Today Network reviewed all publicly available ICE inspection reports from 2018 to 2019, and uncovered an additional 1,818 violations over 98 facilities, for a total of 15,821 total violations. On at least 175 occasions, ICE facilities have been awarded waivers allowing them to supersede ICE detention standards, allowing for the employment of strip searches, tear gas, and limit the information provided to detainees regarding their medical health. 

          In this section, we will review the numerous ways the Trump Administration is satisfying the Persecution Stage of the Ten Stages of Genocide. First, we will focus on the deliberate deprivation of resources for detained immigrants, including the lack of medical treatment, inadequate food and water supplies, sanitary issues, and denial of other constitutional resources. Then, we will examine instances of torture in these facilities, such as sexual and physical abuse, solitary confinement, and psychological torture. Following this, we will learn of the circumstances resulting in the deaths of immigrant detainees under the United States care. Lastly, we will evaluate the international community’s response to these immigration detention facilities and practices. 

(Woman-and-child migrants detained in July 2019 at the Ursula detention facility in McAllen, Texas, the United States.)

Deprivation of Resources

Inadequate Medical and Mental Health Treatment

          On March 20, 2019, representatives of the Office for Civil Rights and Liberties and the Office of General Counsel sent a memorandum to senior leadership of ICE, notifying ICE of allegations “ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) has systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees in facilities throughout the U.S.” The memo was then brought forth to the Office of Inspector General by an employee within IHSC, the branch of ICE which provides medical services to detainees, in April 2018. The memo eventually leaked to the public, and outlined 17 instances in which IHSC contributed to the illnesses and deaths of immigrant detainees. According to the report:

          The allegations involved both medical and mental health care and include the following: 

● inadequate treatment and monitoring of detainees in severe withdrawal from alcohol and/or substance abuse; 

● lack of psychiatric monitoring leading to mental health deterioration; 

● forcible medication injections as a means of behavior control; 

● misdiagnosis of medical and mental health conditions; 

● serious medication errors, and

● inadequate care and/or oversight for four detainees who died while in custody.


1. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0623 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ████████████████, an ICE detainee at the Eloy Federal Contract Facility in Eloy, Arizona. According to the complaint, IHSC Medical Quality Management Unit ("MQMU") notified the facility psychiatrist several times about ██████████ worsening psychosis-related symptoms, but the psychiatrist failed to treat him. ██████████ allegedly became so unstable that he lacerated his penis, requiring hospitalization and surgery.

 2. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0624 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ██████████████, an ICE detainee at the Eloy Federal Contract Facility in Eloy, Arizona. Allegedly, ██████████ was not treated appropriately for serious mental illness with psychotic-like symptoms. According to the complainant, MQMU warned IHSC senior leadership on two occasions about ██████████ increased risk of adverse outcomes due to his auditory hallucinations and suicidal ideations. This allegedly resulted in ██████████ not receiving anti-psychotic medication, despite the IHSC chief psychiatrist's agreement with the MQMU's findings and recommendation that ██████████ receive anti-psychotic medication. Instead, ██████████ received an anti-depressant which likely worsened his psychosis. The complainant further claimed that following MQMU's second notification of inadequate mental health care and treatment, IHSC senior leadership allegedly advised MQMU to "hold off" on notifying IHSC Clinical Services unless and until the detainee became psychotic and suicidal again. 

3. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0626 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ████████████████████, an ICE detainee at Florence Service Processing Center (SPC) in Florence, Arizona. Allegedly, facility medical staff did not follow policies and procedures concerning withdrawal protocols for ██████████ opioid withdrawal. According to the complainant, the detainee was not treated until MQMU staff called the facility following a review of a significant event notification (SEN). The detainee was subsequently found to be in severe benzodiazepine withdrawal and was admitted to the hospital. Further, the complainant alleges that MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 2 

4. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0627 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ████████████████████, an ICE detainee at Florence Service Processing Center (SPC) in Florence, Arizona. Allegedly, facility medical staff did not follow policies and procedures concerning withdrawal protocols for ██████████ benzodiazepines withdrawal. According to the complainant, medical staff did not address his withdrawal at intake, despite his reporting high levels of daily consumption of benzodiazepines. ██████████ subsequently went into drug withdrawal seizures and was admitted to the hospital. Further, the complainant alleges that MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 3 

5. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0628 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ████████████████████, an ICE detainee at Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Allegedly, facility medical staff did not follow policies and procedures concerning withdrawal protocols for ██████████ alcohol withdrawal. ██████████ stated during his intake screening that he consumed one bottle of vodka and two bottles of beer daily. ██████████ subsequently went into severe alcohol withdrawal and delirium and was admitted to the hospital in the intensive care unit (ICU). Further, according to the complainant, MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 4 

6. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0629 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ██████████████████, an ICE detainee at Florence Service Processing Center (SPC) in Florence, Arizona. Allegedly, facility medical staff did not follow policies and procedures concerning withdrawal protocols for ██████████ opioid withdrawal, and a medication error occurred during the course of his treatment. Further, according to the complainant, MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to the IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 5 

7. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-30 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████████████████, an 8-year old resident at South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas. Allegedly, delayed medical care and misdiagnosis led to an infection that spread from the child's ear to his facial bone, requiring a partial bone resection. According to the information provided, on December 5, 2017, the child's mother first reported that her child had a progressively worsening earache for the past two weeks. The child was subsequently treated using nursing guidelines for Allergies/Fever/Pain, diagnosed with Swimmer's Ear, and given ear drops. However, on December 23, 2017, the child was noted to have seizure activity and was transferred to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Pott's Puffy Tumor with epidural and subdural abscess resulting in partial frontal bone resection. Further, the complainant alleged that MQMU performed an analysis of the case and found that the inadequate medical care provided by STFRC was a contributory factor resulting in harm. MQMU's report was forwarded to IHSC leadership and MQMU requested findings and/or interventions from Clinical Services, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 

8. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0631 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████████████████, an ICE detainee at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. Allegedly, a delay in care occurred after medical staff were notified of the detainee's critical lab result that should have resulted in immediate medical intervention. ████████████ was reportedly bleeding through his skin and having vision changes. Despite having extremely thin blood, the physician allegedly kept him on aspirin regimen for six days, resulting in his coughing up large amounts of blood. ████████████████ was taken to the hospital in critical condition and not expected to survive. MQMU performed an analysis of the case and determined that that Aspirin therapy may have caused harm that could have resulted in a fatality. The findings were forwarded to IHSC leadership for consideration of a root cause analysis, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 

9. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0632 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████, an ICE detainee at Jena/LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. ██████ was sent to the hospital Emergency Room due to erratic behavior and convulsions. When she returned to the facility, she was observed eating toilet paper and styrofoam in the Medical Housing Unit (MHU). According to the complainant, ███████ was placed at higher than normal risk for mental status deterioration and given forced intramuscular injection of Ativan. Further, the complainant alleged that MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 6 

10. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0633 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████████, an ICE detainee at Jena/LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. Allegedly, ███████████ was forcibly medicated with multiple Ativan injections for repeated behavioral issues. Further, MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership dialed to take appropriate action. 7 

11. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0634 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ████████████████████████████, an ICE detainee at El Paso Service Processing Center (SPC) in El Paso, Texas. According to the information provided, ██████████████████ was observed with a sweatshirt around his neck and four correctional officers held him down while medical staff administered a haloperidol intramuscularly by force. According to the complainant, MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet, IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 8 

12. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0635 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████████████████, an ICE detainee at El Paso Service Processing Center (SPC) in El Paso, Texas. Allegedly, ███████████ was forcibly medicated for reported behavioral issues. MQMU performed an analysis of the case and the findings included policy and procedure violations, which were forwarded to IHSC leadership for review and action, yet IHSC leadership failed to take appropriate action. 9 

13. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0636 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding ███████████████████, an ICE detainee at Northwest Detention Facility in Tacoma, Washington. According to the complainant, MQMU noted that despite ███████████ having a significant psychiatric history and medication non-compliance, he was not being monitored by facility mental health staff. MQMU notified IHSC senior leadership in the Behavorial Health Unit (BHU) that based on their review, ██████████ was at high risk for suicide. Allegedly, BHU leadership was unable to appropriately identify him as seriously mentally ill (SMI). This resulted in facility mental health staff not being notified that the detainee should be flagged for possible treatment, close monitoring, and tracking. 10 

14. Complaint No. 17-06-ICE-0582 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding the death of Roger Rayson (A206 839 071), an ICE detainee at Jena/LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. According to the complainant, Mr. Rayson's healthcare was "deplorable." Mr. Rayson's preliminary cause of death was ruled as subdural hemorrhages resulting in a traumatic brain injury. The complainant claimed that multiple requests for the Uniform Corrective Action Plan (UCAP) and Root Cause Analysis (RCA) were made to IHSC leadership, but IHSC did not respond.

15. Complaint No. 18-09-ICE-0615 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding the death of ██████████████████, an ICE detainee at Eloy Federal Contract Facility in Eloy, Arizona. According to the complainant, IHSC leadership was informed of multiple concerns regarding the care provided at the facility, particularly the facility's psychiatrist misdiagnosing, failing to treat detainees appropriately, and the lack of readily available emergency medications. ██████ preliminary cause of death was ruled as coronary artery disease. The complainant alleged that during a briefing with ERO on the preliminary cause of death, IHSC leadership's report was "very misleading," and the more likely causes of death given the detainee's medication and symptoms (neuroleptic malignant syndrome and/or serotonin syndrome) were not raised. 

16. Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0613 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding the death of Efrain De La Rosa (A209 910 301), an ICE detainee at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia. Mr. De La Rosa's preliminary cause of death was ruled a suicide. According to the complainant, IHSC leadership was notified of Mr. De La Rosa's deteriorating mental health condition via SEN report on several occasions between April 25, 2018 and May 6, 2018. On April 26, 2018, a SEN report indicated that while on suicide watch, Mr. De La Rosa had stated to staff that he would be dead in three days. The complainant noted that several months earlier, IHSC leadership directed MQMU to cease reviewing SEN and segregation reports, despite concerns raised to IHSC leadership that this restriction could negatively impact detainee safety. 

17. Complaint No. 18-08-ICE-0614 CRCL received a referral from the DHS OIG regarding the death of Ronald Cruz (A078 963 293), an ICE detainee at Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas. According to the complainant, the medical care rendered to Mr. Cruz was "grossly negligent." Mr. Cruz's preliminary cause of death on May 16, 2018 was ruled as meningitis. The complainant alleged that the mortality review committee was erroneous in concluding that the care rendered to Mr. Cruz was appropriate. "

           In addition to this memo, reporting has widely demonstrated the minimal medical assistance given to immigrant detainees. One particularly dangerous practice by the Trump Administration is its refusal to allow civilian doctors to donate flu shots and medical care to immigrants. Following the death of three children due to influenza, ages two, six, and sixteen, doctors began protesting outside border patrol facilities demanding entrance to administer flu shots. Initially, CBP stated detainees do not require flu shots because they are held for a maximum of 72 hours. This is false, as immigrant detainees under Trump are held for weeks, months, and even years at a time. 

           Once this point was made, CBP claimed its too logistically challenging for the agency to collaborate with doctors to permit flu shots. Danielle Deines, a neonatologist participating in the protest, spoke with several CBP officials regarding the importance of flu vaccinations. At the conclusion of the meeting, she stated “They are having difficulty prioritizing something like this, because they have so far dehumanized people,” she said, adding that one CBP official said something along the lines of: “‘It’s not like we can offer the flu vaccine to every Central American who comes knocking on our door.’ My question is, why not?” she said. “If you want to hold people in detention, you can provide people the basic flu vaccine … You’re saying death is acceptable to you, and that you don’t value human life.

            These egregious violations of medical and mental health practices for immigrant detainees mirror maneuvers of past genocides which intend for poor conditions to suppress or kill a designated population. By deliberately denying immigrant detainees adequate health care, the Trump Administration is creating circumstances expediting peoples’ death. This tactic is intentional, as demonstrated in the Administration’s refusal to provide flu shots to detainees, despite the flu killing multiple immigrants in custody, including children.

Insufficient Food

           On June 3, 2019, the Office of Inspector General released a report expressing concerns regarding four ICE detention facilities. Among various violations, the report uncovered grave grievances when examining the food dispersed to immigrant detainees. Below, you will read the first section of the report detailing these violations. 

 Food Service Issues at All Facilities Endanger Detainee Health and Welfare

Our observations of all four facility kitchens indicated some level of noncompliance with ICE standards. We observed spoiled and moldy food in kitchen refrigerators, as well as food past its expiration date. We also found meat thawing without labels indicating when it had begun thawing or the date by which it must be used. The issues at the LaSalle and Aurora facilities were minor and easily fixed during our visits, whereas those at the Adelanto and Essex facilities were egregious. At Essex, the food handling in general was so substandard that ICE and facility leadership had the kitchen manager replaced during our inspection. Overall, the issues we identified represent health and food safety risks.  

  • At Essex, open packages of raw chicken leaked blood all over refrigeration units, as shown in figure 1; lunch meat was slimy, foul smelling and appeared to be spoiled; and moldy bread was stored in the refrigerator. 

  • At Adelanto, lunch meat and cheese were mixed and stored uncovered in large walk-in refrigerators; lunch meat was also unwrapped and unlabeled; chicken smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled; and food in the freezer was expired. 

  • At LaSalle, some bread was out of date by up to 1 week. All bread was stored in the refrigerator. 

  • At LaSalle and Aurora, open packaged food was not properly relabeled and dated for future consumption, as shown in figure 1.

           In a class action lawsuit filed against the Trump Administration in August 2018 with the District Court of Central District California, immigrant detainees detail devastating accounts of their duration in detention. One aspect of the lawsuit addresses the quality and quantity of food given to immigrant detainees. Below, we will read Section C. of the court filing titled Plaintiffs are Denied Adequate Nutrition. The defendants referred to in the lawsuit are the Trump Administration, and the Plaintiffs are immigrant detainees held at the Victorville facility in California. The allegations are numbered in accordance with the lawsuit filings, with some allegations containing further examples (Ex.) underneath.

61. Defendants routinely and systematically deny Plaintiffs and other detainees adequate nutrition and adequate time to eat even the substandard food they are provided.

62. Upon their arrival at Victorville, Plaintiffs and other detainees were on lockdown for two or three days and received all of their meals in their cells.  These meals were insufficient and regularly consisted of a sandwich and nothing else. The sandwiches the Plaintiffs were provided were sometimes frozen in the middle.  Upon their initial arrival, detainees who are vegetarians for religious reasons were given meals with meat in them, with no alternatives.

63. When not on lockdown, the civil detainees imprisoned at Victorville receive their meals in the chow hall. These meals are small, inadequate, and of poor nutritional value, and frequently do not contain meat or any other sufficient source of protein. Detainees who are vegetarians for religious reasons, like Plaintiff G. Singh, are often offered nothing but two pieces of bread for lunch, and green beans and rice for dinner.

      Ex. 15, J. Rodriguez Rivera, “Some days we receive sandwiches with nothing in them, just two pieces of bread.”

64. Plaintiffs and other detainees imprisoned at Victorville have lost weight due to inadequate food. Plaintiff Atinder Paul Singh reports that since he arrived in mid-June, he has lost approximately 15 pounds due to the inadequate amount of food, especially for detainees who adhere to a vegetarian diet for religious reasons. 

       Ex. 8, O. Colindres Velasquez, “You can see the bones sticking out of my wrists that you couldn’t see before.”

       Ex. 11, R. Padilla Flores, lost roughly 10 pounds during detention.

       Ex. 10, E. Berrios Banegas, lost roughly 5 to 10 pounds during detention.

65. Defendants sometimes serve Plaintiffs food that is inedible.

      Ex. 9, M. Escoto Cortez, “I have seen what looks like worms or maggots in the meat.” M. Escoto Cortez has been complaining of stomach              problems and blood in his stool since arriving at Victorville. 

      Ex. 8, O. Colindres Velasquez, the milk is “often sour and you can’t drink it or you will get sick.”

      Ex. 15, J. Rodriguez Rivera, “Many mornings, we receive spoiled milk at breakfast.”

      Ex. 10, E. Berrios Banegas, “Sometimes the meat tastes expired.”

66. Defendants allow Plaintiffs and other detainees only minutes to eat each meal, and throw away any uneaten food. 

       Ex. 6, N. Granados Aquino Plaintiff reports that minutes after sitting down in the chow hall, guards yell at the detainees that they have “only               two minutes left” to eat.

       Ex. 7, A. Thea alleges detainees are permitted to remain in the chow hall for no more than five minutes at meal times. 

       Ex. 17, P. Jaimez Bueno, detainees are given three or four minutes to eat, after which uneaten food is confiscated and thrown away.

       Ex. 8, O. Colindres Velasquez, detainees are given approximately five minutes before corrections officers start rushing them out.

       Ex. 10, E. Berrios Banegas, “We are only given 3 to 5 minutes to eat.”

67. Detainees are not permitted to take any uneaten food out of the chow hall.

     Ex. 6, N. Granados Aquino, “I saw an official force another detainee to throw away a piece of bread he had put in his pocket when we were               leaving the chow hall.”

     Ex. 8, O. Colindres Velasquez, detainees are not permitted to take even an apple from the chow hall.

68. Until very recently, Plaintiffs and other detainees were denied access to commissary to supplement their meals, so they had no access to food between dinner and the next day’s breakfast. The detainees are not permitted to purchase all of the food products available in the commissary. For example, Plaintiff Ngwa was told that only prisoners could purchase certain food items. Many detainees are indigent and so cannot buy food from the commissary. 

69. Defendants’ conduct vis-a-vis the Plaintiffs and other detainees does not comply with either ICE or the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) written policies.

Unsanitary Drinking Water

            In addition to inadequate food, the water supplied to detainees has also been reported to be unsafe. In July, 2019, three U.S. House Representatives toured facilities in El Paso and Clint Texas, in an effort to garner support for investigating detention facilities. While touring the facility, lawmaker and Chairperson of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Joaquin Castro, spoke to a group of 15 to 20 mothers held in a single cell. In the cell, there was one toilet which did not produce running water. According to Representative Castro, immigrant officers demanded the female detainees drink water out of the toilet. 

             In 2018, the Huffington Post reported on the unsanitary water distributed to immigrant detainees. The article writes “The Border Patrol stations also fail to meet basic hygiene standards, according to the court filing. Many of the children describe the guards giving them water that tasted like chlorine. ‘I only drank it twice because I didn’t trust it,’ said Justin, a 13-year-old from El Salvador. ‘It made me feel funny in my stomach the times I drank it.’ One mother, named Yojana, said, ‘We had to drink water from the toilet to keep hydrated.’” 

              This deprivation of basic human resources, food and water, illustrates the deliberateness of the Trump Administration to deprive immigrant detainees of their lives. Through the administration’s refusal to provide safe water and food, they are effectively starving human beings. These tactics are calculated, and places the Trump Administration's actions in line with the eighth stage of genocide, persecution, for the goals of the administration are to suppress a specified population through the deprivation of resources.

Denial of Outdoor Recreation

Absence of Recreation Outside Housing Units at Two Facilities May Reduce Detainee Mental Health and Welfare 

          ICE standards require that all detainees be allowed outdoor recreation time outside their living area. However, the Essex and Aurora facilities do not provide outdoor space, and recreation for detainees was located within housing units. We observed enclosures inside detainee living areas with mesh cages at the top to allow in outside air, as shown in figure 3. We also identified, at the Aurora site, that female and male detainees had to share a recreation space, half-days each, so their access was limited. Further, detainees we interviewed at Aurora and Essex stated they wanted true outdoor recreation for the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, and for playing soccer with their fellow detainees. 

          Studies have shown that there are both health and social benefits to outdoor recreation. Reports have found that proximity to green space has reduced stress, depressive symptoms, and interpersonal violence. Positive impacts to outdoor recreation also include improved attention, self-discipline, and social ties. Detainees are held in civil, not criminal, custody; yet, according to the National Institute for Jail Operations,9 the loss or reduction of recreation related amenities (indoor recreation; no fresh air and direct sunlight) may result in increased idle time and a significantly lower quality of life.

Refusal of Basic Hygiene

           In June of 2019, the Trump Administration argued in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before a three-judge appellate panel in California that denying migrants sleep, toothbrushes, blankets, and soap is legal. The case was brought forth on behalf of detained children, asserting the government is violating the 1997 Flores Agreement which requires the government to ensure conditions are “safe and sanitary”. The Trump Administration attempted to defend its practices by asserting the Flores Agreement does not specifically use the words “soap”, “toothbrushes”, and “sleep”. The panel of judges; however, did not find any value in this argument, and in August rejected the Trump Administration’s argument. Below we will review a portion of questioning during the Ninth Circuit Court panel, as well as a portion of the court’s findings dismissing the Administration’s argument. Here is a link to a video of the panel, the portion discussing sanitary standards for minors begins around 30:00. 

Ninth Court of Appeals Partial Transcript

Judge Wallace Tashima: “If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary. Wouldn’t everybody agree with that? Do you agree with that?”

Sarah Fabian: “Well, I think it’s—I think those are—there is a fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary.”

Judge Wallace Tashima: “Not 'may be.' 'Are' a part. What do you say, 'may be'? You mean there are circumstances when a person doesn’t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap for days?”

Sarah Fabian: “Well, I think, in CBP custody, there’s—it’s frequently intended to be much shorter-term, so it may be that for a shorter-term stay in CBP custody that some of those things may not be required.”

Judge Marsha Berzon also pointed out that detained children have been forced to sleep on cold cement floors with just an aluminum blanket.

Judge Marsha Berzon: “Are you really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?”

Sarah Fabian: “Your Honor, I think what I’d like to—what I’d like to stand up and say”—

Judge Marsha Berzon: “Not really going to say that.”

Sarah Fabian: —”is the focus—is to focus the court on what—what the question is.”

Flores V. Barr

           In May 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the Agreement. The plaintiffs alleged that despite earlier such motions and resulting orders enforcing the Agreement, the government continued to violate it by detaining class members in unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Border Patrol stations and by detaining minors in secure, unlicensed facilities. The plaintiffs requested that the district court address these violations by appointing an independent monitor. 

           In June 2017, after an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted in part plaintiffs’ motion to enforce. In its order (“the Order”), the court found that the government was violating the Agreement’s express requirements to provide adequate access to appropriate food and water and “adequate temperature controls at a reasonable and comfortable range.” The court further found that although the Agreement “makes no mention of the words ‘soap,’ ‘towels,’ ‘showers,’ ‘dry clothing,’ or ‘toothbrushes,’ . . . these hygiene products fall within the rubric of the Agreement’s language requiring ‘safe and sanitary’ conditions.” Certain Border Patrol stations, the district court found, were violating paragraph 12A of the Agreement by failing to provide such sanitary necessities. 

           The district court also determined that although “the word ‘sleep’ does not appear in the Agreement, . . . whether Defendants have set up conditions that allow class members to sleep in the [Border Patrol] facilities is relevant to the issue of whether they have acted in a manner that is consistent with ‘the INS’s concern for the particular vulnerability of minors’ as well as the Agreement’s ‘safe and sanitary’ requirement.” Citing evidence that many minors in Border Patrol custody are forced to sleep on concrete floors, with no bedding aside from pieces of thin polyester foil, and are subjected to cold temperatures, serious overcrowding, and constant lighting, the district court found that the government was violating the Agreement at certain Border Patrol stations by holding children in facilities that deprived them of adequate sleep. 

          The court also found that the government was failing to make and record ongoing efforts aimed at releasing or placing class members in violation of paragraph 14 of the Agreement, and was detaining class members in secure, unlicensed facilities in violation of paragraph 19.

           Though the Trump Administration lost this case, they have not wavered in their practices denying immigrant detainees basic living necessities and a safe environment. Furthermore, the Administrations’ very efforts to seek legal assistance in their abuse of human beings reflects the inhumane lens immigrants are viewed through, and the long term goals this Administration holds in effectively criminalizing and dehumanizing Hispanic immigrants.


According to a USA Today investigation, since Trump’s presidency initiated in 2017, there have been at least 400 allegations of sexual assault or abuse, frequent use of solitary confinement, over 800 cases of physical force against detainees, roughly 20,000 grievances filed by detainees, and at least 29 fatalities in connection with ICE. In this section, we will review various cases of torture including, but not limited to, uses of excessive force, abuses of solitary confinement, and the adoption of cruel and unusual punishments. The following content is disturbing, and may not be suitable for some students. Please prioritize your mental health as you proceed with the module. 

Over the Christmas holidays, the Trump Administration silently reduced the standards of treatment of ICE detainees, effectively permitting torture. The new standards expand the powers of officers to place detainees in solitary confinement, and removes previous restrictions preventing officers from invoking methods such as hog-tying, fetal restraints, tight constraints, and the handcuffing of minors. In addition to this, ICE removed requirements for providing outdoor recreation areas to detainees, as well as revised protocols for notifying agencies of serious injuries, illnesses, or deaths among detainees. Under the new standards, officers no longer need to submit these reports immediately, but rather “as soon as practicable.” Since the Administration announced these revisions during the 2019 Christmas holiday, most Americans are unaware of these policies, which permanently permits the torturing of immigrant detainees. 

Below is an image of hog-tying:

Image result for hog tying

(Image depicting "hog-tying")

Below we will review cases in which torture was used against immigrant detainees in custody under the Trump Administration. Remember, these are less than a fraction of the number of torture allegations presented by detainees. The cases described below arise primarily from investigative reporting, as ICE has worked vehemently to deny any and all allegations of misconduct and abuse. 

Case 1:

           At the La Palma Correctional Center near Eloy, Arizona, Jose Cuadreas claims guards conducted strip searches after every visit with his family, ceased supplying him with soap, and once witnessed a guard scream at a detainee for not understanding English. 

Case Two:

           At the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, detainees became worried over the outbreak of mumps, which infected at least 24 people. The facility was placed into quarantine, which denied detainees opportunities to participate in family visits. Stemming from fears kitchen supplies was improperly sanitized, detainees engaged in a hunger strike. According to a detainee during this event, David De La Cruz Grajales, 20 guards entered the dormitory in riot gear, and demanded detainees go to their beds. When the protesters refused, correctional staff sprayed detainees with pepper spray, zip-tied their hands, and placed them in solitary confinement. During the incident, Grajales suffered an asthma attack while his hands were ziptied, and was refused an inhaler for 15 minutes. Later that day, Grajales requested a new change of clothes because the pepper spray was still burning his body. In response to this, the shift commander stated “no, you’re going to be burning for at least two days.”

Case Three:

           In Louisiana, at the River Correctional Center, an October inspection revealed detainees had engaged in 48 hunger strikes over the last year. According to the inspectors, the hunger strikes did not meet the standards for evaluating facilities practices, but rather are “due to the presence of a large number of detainees from India that use hunger strikes as a request for release.” This conclusion by the Trump Administration these protests are maneuvers for release selectively ignore the motivations of unsanitary and unsafe conditions sparking the protests, as well as attempts to put cultural blame on Indian detainees. 

Case Four:

          At the Linn County Correctional Center in Iowa, inspectors uncovered staffers were strip-searching all incoming detainees, a violation of ICE detention standards which permits strip search only when there is a reasonable suspicion a detainee is carrying contraband. 

Case Five:

          In Louisiana, at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, over 100 immigrants engaged in a hunger strike. The protest occurred one day after a hunger strike in a different Louisiana facility, the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility, concluded with the 30 detainees participating being pepper-sprayed. The 100 peaceful protesters at Pine Prairie were met with even greater force, as all detainees were tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, beaten, and then thrown into solitary confinement. Below is a photo released by a detainee who participated in the protest and was shot with rubber bullets. 

(Image of wounds from rubber bullets from Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center)

Case 6:

          In December of 2016, Faour Abdallah Fraihat arrived at the Adelanto Detention Center in California. Upon arrival, he informed staff of problems with the disc in his back and knee, and was supplied a temporary wheelchair. Within a month at the facility, staff confiscated his wheelchair. For the next three years, Fraihat made daily requests for a wheelchair because since confiscation Fraihat is not physically capable of traveling to the cafeteria, forcing him to depend on staff to bring him food in his cell. In February of 2019, Fraihat was finally issued a wheelchair. During this time, Farihat was also suffering from deteriorating vision, which required surgery. Staff members denied Farihat the doctor recommended procedure, and he later lost complete vision in his left eye. 

Case 7:

           In Colorado, 28-year old Sudan refugee Hamida Ali has schizophrenia and became suicidal during her time in ICE custody. Immediately following her detention, Ali was placed into isolation for approximately 9 months, resulting in episodes of extreme psychological distress by Ali. 

Case 8:

          U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jose Segovia Benitez is held at the Adelanto Detention Center in California. From his time serving the United States by completing two tours of duty, Benitez accrued combat PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, anxiety, and depression. At Adelanto, he is held in solitary confinement, which has reportedly exacerbated his mental health problems. 

Case 9:

          The day after the suicide of detainee Roylan Hernandez-Diaz at the Richwood Correctional Center, 20 other detainees conducted a peaceful protest writing “Justice for Roylan” on their white t-shirts, and refusing food in the cafeteria. In response to this, guards physically attacked the protesters, severely beating one person they needed immediate medical intervention from a nearby hospital.  

Case 10:

          At the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico, 18 Cubans led a sit-in over their inability to secure a hearing before an immigration judge. After this group conducted a second sit in, guards reacted by throwing protesters into solitary confinement and depriving them of outdoor recreation time. 


          To access first hand accounts of these conditions from detained immigrants please visit this link, and read letters those detained by ICE mailed to House Representative Bernie Thompson describing their mistreatment and abuse in a detention facility.

Silence Internationally

          A critical component of identifying the persecution stage is examining the international response to the Trump Administration’s immigration policies and practices. In June of 2018, the the Trump Administration officially withdrew the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Since assuming office, Trump has ignored at least 22 reported requests from the United Nations to visit the United States and review the execution of these practices. According to international policy, the United Nations cannot examine these practices unless formally invited by the United States. Representatives of the United Nations have spoken out against Trump’s policies, but no formal action has been taken against the United States. 

           For instance, in June of 2018, the United Nations’ Office of Human Rights put forth a statement condemning the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy. According to the United Nations, “the current policy in the United States of separating “extremely young children” from their asylum-seeker or migrant parents along the country’s southern border “always constitutes a child rights violation.” A year later, following the release of the Inspector General’s Report we reviewed, the High Commissioner for the U.N. Human Rights Council stated ““As a pediatrician, but also as a mother and a former head of State, I am deeply shocked that children are forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded facilities, without access to adequate healthcare or food, and with poor sanitation conditions.”

           Despite the High Commissioner alleging the United States may be in violation of international human rights law through these inhumane practices, no action has been taken against the United States. This is most likely due to the United States history and influence in uplifting international human rights, particularly through the United Nations. Since America is a key member of the council, the U.N. may be hesitant to risk losing such a powerful partner, which maintains both political and financial leverage. This reality is in part preventing international interventions into the United States' detainment and detention of immigrants. The world recognizes these atrocities, but fears retaliation financially and politically from the United States, therefore allowing the degradation of human rights to continue. This bystander behavior serves only to enable and empower the Trump Administration in its' efforts to eliminate Hispanic immigration to the United States, effectively giving the "green light" to continue and escalate these efforts. 

Last modified: Monday, 2 Mar 2020, 23:13