Stop the Deportation and Detention of The Sierra Blanca Survivors

Tom Homan, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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UndocuBlack, the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, the Council on American Islamic Relations - San Antonio, the Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic and RAICES are calling on DHS to immediately grant stays of removal and release the Sierra Blanca Survivors.

“Monkeys,” “animals,” “stupid motherf****ing Africans,” and “terrorists.” On March 22, 2018 the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, and University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic jointly filed complaints demanding the U.S. Attorney investigate the abuse of approximately 80 African men previously detained for civil immigration reasons at the for-profit West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, TX.

Read the full report here.

Complaints filed with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Inspector General, and local authorities demand investigations into these abuses. Advocates also filed a Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and a request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting an exercise of prosecutorial discretion be made on behalf of several of these detained men.

Attorneys representing the survivors have been informed that many will be moved to the El Paso Processing Center with the intention of deporting the men imminently.

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To: Tom Homan, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned, ask that DHS immediately grant stays of removal and release the Sierra Blanca Survivors. Not only do many have viable asylum claims, but they have been the victims of physical, sexual, verbal and mental abuse while inside the West Texas Detention Facility. The Sierra Blanca Survivors should not be further traumatized with indefinite detention, nor should they be prevented from fully participating in the investigation of the heinous acts at the Sierra Blanca Detention Center. DHS should reunite them immediately with their families and grant them Deferred Action pursuant to the INA and federal regulations.

On or about February 23, 2018, approximately 80 men were transferred to the WTDF. Most of the men (approximately 68) were nationals of Somalia. The group also included several Kenyan and Sudanese nationals. All of the men were in ICE custody for the sole purpose of effectuating deportation after receiving final orders of removal.

While detained at the WTDF, the men reported suffering numerous abuses,
including: physical assault; sexual abuse; excessive and arbitrary discipline (use of pepper spray and solitary confinement) without cause; verbal insults, including racial slurs; dangerous and unsanitary conditions of confinement; and denial of medical and mental health care. LaSalle Corrections officers, who are contracted by ICE to operate civil detention centers, committed the abuses. ICE officers may have been present for some of the abuses.

Of the 30 men interviewed, all reported being pepper sprayed at least once; 14
reported being physically assaulted by officers. These incidents are select examples of practices, not an exhaustive list of incidents.

Many of the men we interviewed have lived in the U.S. for decades and have close U.S. citizen family members, including parents, spouses, and children. The men ranged in age from their 20s to their 50s. Many came to the U.S. as refugees when they were children.

Most of the men we spoke to feared persecution or torture in Somalia based on political opinion, religion, or being a member of a minority tribe/clan. Some had applied for asylum years ago and were denied, but fear going back now more than ever due to the rise of ISIS-Somalia and Al Shabab. Others never applied for asylum because they did not know about it, were told they did not qualify or received an in absentia deportation order for missing a court date.

We, the undersigned, ask for the immediate release of the Sierra Blanca Survivors. We demand that DHS and all appropriate law enforcement agencies properly investigate the issues brought to light by the abuses suffered by the Sierra Blanca survivors.