#FreeIngrid Petition

Thomas Feeley, ICE Field Director

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Ingrid is a 30 year old immigrant from El Salvador; she is full of joy, makes beautiful art, and has aspirations of a career in nursing. Ingrid loves El Salvador, but she is seeking asylum in the United States. In El Salvador, Ingrid experienced violence related to her sexual orientation, and she feared for her life. Ingrid has been illegally and unjustly detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York for two years now. Please sign this petition to demand Ingrid’s immediate release and to express your support for detention abolition. Click here to learn more about Ingrid’s case.

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Ithaca, NY

To: Thomas Feeley, ICE Field Director
From: [Your Name]

Dear legislators and administrator,

We are writing to you today to ask that you free Ingrid Elisabeth Hernandez-Franco, who is detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York.

Ingrid is hard working, resilient, and full of joy, which she expresses through her art and music. Ingrid loves El Salvador, but she left seeking asylum in the United States. In El Salvador, Ingrid experienced violence related to her sexual orientation, and she feared for her life. Upon her arrival in the United States, Ingrid was detained and has now been held at Batavia since January 7, 2018, so almost two years. Ingrid only speaks Spanish and there are few, and sometimes no, guards at the facility that speak Spanish – this is unacceptable. She has been denied release on bond despite the fact that she has no criminal record and came here seeking asylum, following international law.

Here’s the bottom line. Ingrid does not deserve to be detained. Ingrid deserves freedom. We are angered by Ingrid’s detention, and very concerned for her safety. What’s more is Ingrid’s detention is unlawful. The detention of asylum seekers is not only cruel and wasteful – it’s illegal. It violates the Fifth Amendment, U.S. law, and international law.

The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving any person, regardless of citizenship, of their liberty without due process of law. Ingrid has been denied due process for two years, and continues to wait indefinitely as her case winds its way through a drawn-out appeals process that gives her no sense of when her wait might be over.

Immigration laws require the government to consider the facts in each case to determine if the individual is a flight risk or a danger to public safety before it detains that person. Similarly, international law prohibits the use of detention to deter asylum seekers from pursuing their claims, without an individualized determination that detention is justified because the person is a danger or flight risk. However, Ingrid has been detained without even limited opportunity to show that she doesn’t need to be locked up.

Quite frankly, we are ashamed to be associated with a country that sustains such a vast detention system. The United States detention system makes a mockery out of the American dream. As an institution, detention is intrinsically unjust, and we urge you to use your power to dismantle it.

Regardless, you must release Ingrid immediately. Her detention is unlawful and unethical, and she deserves the opportunity to walk free, pursue a nursing degree, and continue her life. We are committed to supporting our friend Ingrid, and we will continue to fight until she is free.

While we are especially concerned about our friend Ingrid, she is one of many individuals harmed by the structure of our for-profit immigration detention system. “Voluntary” work programs exploit the individuals in detention. Ingrid and other detainees are paid a dollar a day, no matter what kind of work they perform or the duration of work that they do. These small wages are necessary for commissary purchases, which leads one to question if this work program is voluntary at all. Instead of the current exploitation, we demand individuals detained in immigration detention facilities are paid minimum wage for their labor.

We also want the exorbitant commissary prices to be lowered to fair, affordable prices. If individuals detained are not already provided with adequate food, clothing, and access to phone services, they should at least be able to afford them without being forced into a “voluntary” work program.

We are also deeply concerned by the use of solitary confinement for both punishment and “protection.” In particular, placing LGBTQ+ detainees in solitary, just because the system does not know how to appropriately accommodate them, is absolutely inhumane. Regardless of the practice’s intentions, it has devastating effects on the mental health of those subjected to it. We demand that the practice of solitary confinement be discontinued.

ICE presents a series of guidelines for language inclusivity in detention: “It is ICE policy to ensure that external Limited English Proficiency (LEP) stakeholders have meaningful access to its programs, services, and activities by providing quality language assistance services in a timely manner.” The LEP stresses the importance of communication and promises “to identify and translate vital documents into the most frequently encountered languages, to provide interpretive service where appropriate, and to educate their personnel.” We demand that the detention facility be staffed with at least one bilingual guard at all times. While there is one bilingual social worker at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center, this individual cannot mediate all interactions between guards and detainees and address grievances alone.

However, we have heard repeatedly from Ingrid that this policy is not being implemented at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center. For much of her two years in detention, there has been no guard on duty who speaks Spanish. Many of the policies regarding work, dining, and communication are never explained to those who don’t speak English.The current translation services do not meet the needs of those detained in Batavia. Without trusted translators, they cannot receive proper medical care, file grievances, and more. While ICE promises to provide Ingrid and all detainees with effective translation services, it is obvious the officials at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center have violated this pledge.

Finally, we demand that during the pandemic, and moving forward, the transfer of individuals detained are ended. Transferring individuals within the system cuts of all ties to systems of support, both family and legal representation. Transfers are often arbitrary and cause distress for detained individuals who must sometimes move across the country all at a moments notice. The perpetuation of transfers helps keep individuals in the system invisible by shuffling them physically throughout the American detention system.

We urge you to consider the issues we have brought as priorities in policy making and administration. And most urgently, we ask that you release Ingrid Elisabeth Hernandez-Franco immediately.