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Imagine this: You’re detained in a detention center and the people around you are suffering due to the poor conditions, lack of medical attention, and food. You and your child are hungry and have been given rotten food to eat. However, instead of feeling rightfully upset, you feel fortunate to even have any food to eat at all. You sit there unaware of where your family is because you’ve been separated from them. You’re trapped in a system that was created against you.
This is the reality people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers are constantly facing. Since the system’s inception, detainees have died in these detention centers due to unjust and inhumane treatment. In September 2020, 400 people in ICE custody were interviewed by the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security. Interviewees reported detention facilities provided unsanitary conditions as well as a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions, poor medical and mental health care, and limited access to legal services. People who were detained spoke of the harsh punishments they faced from being pepper-sprayed to being placed in solitary confinement. In the same year, ICE deported an estimated 185,884 people and detained an average of 20,000 per day. This fact is disturbing considering that this was happening during a global pandemic.
ICE was created in 2003 by the U.S. government in response to9/11. ICE’s system of enforcing immigration laws and policies includes mass surveillance, racial profiling, and militarism. ICE’s purpose is ultimately to detain and deport undocumented immigrants from the United States in order to maintain domestic safety but this system is extremely flawed. In the process, families are being separated, people are dying in custody, and children are being left without parents. According to a CNN tally of data released by the agency, 21 people died in ICE custody in the year 2020. This is not the first time ICE has reported fatalities. In 2011, a woman named Irene Bamenga was given an incorrect dosage of her medication. She later died, at the age of 29, and an investigation into her death shows that she submitted various requests to correct her dosage but the medical staff failed to respond. In 2012, Evalin-Ali Mandza had a heart attack in the Denver Contract Detention Facility. Per reports, it allegedly took nearly one hour for someone to call 911 after a code blue emergency was activated. These are but a few of the many fatalities that show the corruption and abuse that regularly occur in ICE detention centers.
The problem is accountability. It is hard to hold ICE accountable when Congressional and internal oversight has failed to put a stop to the poor treatment of detainees. In order for the abuse and mistreatment to end, the entire system must change. We must defund ICE. Not to say we should have open borders – we shouldn’t – but the system must be reformed, transformed into something completely new. There is so much that we can change for it to become a better system. In order for this to happen, we have to speak out for those who can’t. We cannot sit around and wait for something to change. Reformation is on the verge of happening.
Now imagine this: You have been detained by ICE but instead of being abused and neglected in detention, you are treated humanely and given the proper medical care and subsistence until government officials make a decision as to where you should be sent.
Works CitedAFSC. “What You Need to Know About the Call To Abolish ICE.” AFSC, Feb. 3, 2021, Philadelphia, PA, https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/what-you-need-to-know-about-call-to-abolish-ice
ACLU, “Ice and Border Patrol Abuses.” 2021 American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses
Silky Shah, “Why America still needs to abolish ICE.” NBC News, 2021 NBC Universal, Oct. 14, 2020 https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/why-america-still-needs-abolish-ice-ncna1243293
Blair Ganson, “Abuse of Power by ICE and CBP: Perspective from an Immigration Attorney and Water Drop Volunteer.” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Apr. 6, 2019 https://harvardcrcl.org/abuse-of-power-by-ice-and-cbp-perspective-from-an-immigration-attorney-and-water-drop-volunteer/