Civil rights groups on June 21 filed a federal complaint over life-threatening conditions at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, The Associated Press reports. The complaint in part accuses the facility of giving detainees unsafe drinking water, moldy food, poor medical care and severe punishments. It also accuses the facility of denying detained people access to soap and hand sanitizer, which increases their risk of contracting COVID-19.
The complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Southern Poverty Law Center and others, was sent to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It alleges that detained people who spoke out against the facility’s harsh conditions were then subjected to solitary confinement as retribution. “This pattern of implementing punitive solitary confinement is abusive, unlawful, and tantamount to torture,” the complaint reads.
Those detained in the ICE facility complained of foul-smelling water and rotten food. “One immigrant who works in the kitchen reported that the food is most often poor quality and is also often expired and contaminated,” according to the complaint, as reported by The AP. “On one occasion, detained immigrants who work as kitchen staff discovered that the bread ICE instructed them to serve was past the marked expiration date and had visible mold.”
The filing accuses the ICE facility of violating international human rights law, the U.S. Constitution, and ICE policies. A representative for the private contractor that runs the facility, however, denies all of the accusations listed in the complaint, stating they were “advanced by radical special interest groups with a politically motivated agenda,” in an email sent to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.
“For more than three decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, we have been a trusted service provider to the federal government, providing consistent, high-quality services at all our facilities,” the email read.