Biden faces moment of truth in ICE contract renewal for infamous Florida prison

With critical As contract deadline approaches, a coalition of advocacy groups is calling on the Biden administration to permanently end the federal government’s use of a Florida detention center with a long and troubled history of negligence, abuse and violence as a pen for undocumented immigrants.

On Wednesday, about 20 legal and advocacy organizations sent a petition with nearly 1,600 signatures to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mallorcas urging the Biden administration to refrain from renewing the contract for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Services to use the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven. Florida. Referring to dozens of official complaints received several years ago, letter sent with the petition describes “the widespread medical neglect, illegal use of toxic chemicals, racially motivated violence, inhumane treatment, physical abuse, sexual harassment, and attacks on human dignity and safety that occur regularly” at the facility.

The contract with Glades will be extended on April 30th. Biden administration announced that it restricted ICE’s use of the county jail last month. There are currently no immigrant detainees in the facility. The Closed Clearings coalition — the high-profile national organizations and local grassroots groups that sent the petition to Mallorcas — said it must stay that way and is calling on the administration to formally end its relationship with the prison to ensure it does so.

“ICE often empties its detention centers under scrutiny from the public, only to fill them up again under a cover of secrecy a few months later. We will not let that happen here,” Sophia Casini, director of immigration advocacy strategy for Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit organization dedicated to abolishing immigration detention and coalition member, wrote in an email to Olx Praca. “Years of unsuccessful, toothless investigations have once again confirmed what we always believed to be true: the Glades is beyond the reach of reform, and no amount of show could change that reality.”

“Years of unsuccessful, toothless investigations have reaffirmed what we have always known to be true: The Glades is beyond the reach of reform.”

The coalition to close the Florida facility began to assemble in late 2020 amid the horrific wave of Covid-19 outbreaks sweeping through ICE facilities. Since then, for a year and a half, the groups have waged an ongoing campaign to close the detention center. Collaborating with people currently and previously housed at the facility through hunger strikes and rallies, efforts to close the Glades have begun to gain momentum in recent months.

In March, Earthjustice, along with 13 other groups, many of which are members of the Shut Down Glades Coalition, called for the Environmental Protection Agency to “investigate immediatelyGlades for the alleged misuse of hazardous disinfectants in the facility’s poorly ventilated living and dining areas. (ICE declined to respond to a Scientific American investigation into the alleged practice quoting “pending litigation on this matter.”)

In January, the American Civil Liberties Union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington demanded that the Acting Director of ICE, as well as the Chief Archivist of the U.S. Government, will “immediately take action in connection with the continued removal of surveillance video” by officials in the Glades, including a video that “may contain key evidence needed to protect the rights of immigrants detained in the Glades “. (representative of ICE said The Miami Herald reported that the agency investigated the allegations in January.)

In November in the pre-trial detention center carbon monoxide leak this led to the hospitalization of four people who were in the institution, as well as a kitchen worker. And in August, women held in the detention center filed a complaint claiming “spraying with a toxic chemical that poses a risk of infertility and exacerbates the spread of COVID”, as well as “sexual voyeurism by male guards”.

Problems on object attracted the attention of Congress. In July 2021, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, wrote: her own letter Mallorcas, calling on the secretary to “close” the Glades as soon as possible.

Wasserman Schultz pointed to a complaint that members of the Closed Clearings Coalition filed with the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Civil Rights and Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security, which included testimonies from 25 people who described “schemes of medical abuse; lack of soap, hygiene products, sanitation and PPE; ongoing transfers between institutions without quarantine; failure to comply with court orders to release persons from the Glades; retribution for peaceful protest, including behind-the-scenes physical abuse; use of pesticides indoors; hospitalizations and death.

Wasserman-Schulz sent Majorcas follow-up letter repeating his request in February. She is one of more than two dozen members of Congress who have called for the closure of the Glades in the past two years.

AT Press release Asking the Biden administration to phase out use of the Glades, ICE acknowledged that it “has reduced its use of the Glades County Detention Center, in part because of persistent and persistent concerns about providing medical care to prisoners, and also because the facility is of limited operational value.

“However, ICE continues to pay for a minimum number of beds, many of which the agency has not used and likely will not use,” the statement said. “The agency will not renew the guaranteed minimum bed provision in the agreement. Any future use of the facility will be subject to the complete removal of any conditions that do not meet detention standards.”

Since 2017, about 80 complaints have been filed with Homeland Security oversight agencies about conditions inside the Glades. While these complaints “highlight the abuse suffered by some 140 people,” the Closed Fields Coalition noted, “the true scope of the harm is much broader, as these complaints only represent people who have found the courage, resources and allies, to file a complaint. complaints.”

“As long as the Biden administration continues to maintain this brutal prison, it will continue to be held accountable for the shameless human rights violations committed against black and brown immigrants held in the Glades,” said Immigrants Freedom’s Casini. “The Glades is a symbol of an inherently brutal immigrant detention system and now is the time to close its doors permanently and release all those who have suffered there and been secretly transferred to other detention centers.”