Attorneys who have successfully stopped the federal government from deporting over 1,400 Iraqi nationals are now accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents of subjecting some of the detained Iraqis to various forms of abuse.
According to briefs filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ICE agents are coercing detainees into giving up their legal rights through a regime of fear, threats, verbal abuse and physical mistreatment.
The ACLU alleges that ICE guards frequently refer to Iraqi detainees using racial slurs, single them out over their national origin, and have even withheld food, water and restroom access.
In a press release, the ACLU notes:
In Arizona and Colorado, and on the plane traveling between the two locations, ICE guards referred to the Iraqis as “camel jockey,” “rag head,” and “terrorist.” Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, “You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis.” When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was “an alien.
At a status hearing ordered by U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith, ACLU attorney Mariam Aukerman said the abuse has resulted in some of the detainees signing paperwork which will send them immediately back to Iraq.
During the hearing, Aukerman said:
“We’re very concerned about coercion. ICE guards are telling people if you don’t sign this form you are going to be in detention for a year and a half.”
Speaking to the local NPR affiliate, she noted, “There are also specific instances of racial abuse, things that I cannot repeat on the radio, but horrible things that have been said to the detainees.”
In a separate interview with WWJ Newsradio 950 in Detroit, Aukerman said, “The detention is terrible. These individuals are being told you won’t be able to go back to your family and you’re going to get deported anyway so why even try.”
The allegations set U.S. Department of Justice attorney William Silvis back on his heels. He claimed to have had no knowledge of the claimed abuse prior to the status hearing, saying he felt “sandbagged” by the allegations.
Silvis did seem to defend the government’s apparent strategy, however, saying, “Some people have approached detention officers and expressed their decision to leave.” He also requested that the government be allowed to create a form so that detainees presently without counsel can legally sign away their rights and be sent back to Iraq.
So far, Judge Goldsmith has yet to take action.
[image via screengrab]
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