Civil Rights Groups File Complaint Against ICE and Contractors for Violating First Amendment Rights of People in Immigration Detention

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SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and our legal partners filed a complaint against Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and their contractors on behalf of eight people in immigration detention who faced unlawful retaliation for speaking out against the inhumane and life-threatening conditions.

The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), Centro Legal De La Raza, the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, joined us in filing the complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Our complaint alleges that ICE officials in the San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego Field offices, as well as their contractors, (the GEO Group, CoreCivic, and the Yuba County Sheriff’s office), violated the First Amendment rights of individuals detained at Yuba County Jail in Marysville, Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield, Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, and Golden State Annex in McFarland.

People in ICE custody have been holding hunger strikes, prayer vigils and other peaceful protests to draw public attention to the dangerous conditions and failure of officials to take the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have also been filing internal grievances, speaking to reporters, and seeking help from outside advocates to address serious deficiencies in food, hygiene, medical care, and staff abuse.

But rather than take meaningful measures to address these legitimate health and safety concerns, those who operate the detention centers have engaged in a range of punitive measures against protesters.

Our complaint alleges that guards have sprayed protesters with pepper bullets, deprived them of food and medicine, put them in solitary confinement, denied them access to their attorneys, among other abuses.

We’re calling for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to conduct a thorough investigation of these claims and take immediate action to protect the right of individuals in detention to engage in peaceful protests.

The filed complaint can be found here.


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