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Immigration

Texas ICE processing center accused of mistreating detainees under Biden

During an unannounced visit to the detention center, investigators "identified violations of ICE detention standards that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees," according to a DHS inspector general report

Biden administration orders release of thousands of Latin American migrants
Biden administration orders release of thousands of Latin American migrants | Shutterstock

April 29, 2022 3:47am

Updated: April 29, 2022 2:19pm

A South Texas Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center has been found in violation of ICE standards by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

The internal watchdog released a report alleging that detainees were mistreated by staff and the detention center did not respond to detainee grievances in a timely manner. The IG also found that the facility did not follow proper COVID protocol.

IG investigators made an unannounced visit to the detention center in Pearsall, Texas, where they "identified violations of ICE detention standards that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees," according to the report.

The facility was late responding to more than 10% of grievances and did not comply with the grievance log requirements, the IG found. Of the 48 complaints filed between March and September 2021, more than 25% alleged mistreatment by the staff.

"In one grievance, a detainee alleged a staff member told him to 'go to hell' after he asked the staff member to repeat an announcement in English, but the grievance was dismissed because there were no additional witnesses present when the offensive remark was allegedly made," according to the report.

"In another grievance, a detainee alleged that a staff member made derogatory comments to him, including calling him a 'monkey,' but once again this grievance was dismissed because there were no additional witnesses who heard the exchange," the IG reported.

Some complaints were substantiated through surveillance video, such as an incident when the facility ended the detainees' worship session 10 minutes early.

The IG said it was unable to find whether the detention center "consistently provided access to laundry services, mail, legal materials, and the commissary due to the absence of documentation in facility records."

The facility was found to be using restraints that violated "ICE detention standards and infringes on detainee rights."

The watchdog acknowledged that while some COVID-19 precautions were taken, such as providing masks, facility officials did not make detainees were masks or socially distance in their housing units. However, the facility began vaccinating detainees in April 2021.

The IG's office made five recommendations to the detention center: to ensure the facility meets COVID-19 protocol, to establish a grievance tracking system, to establish a request tracking system, to ensure compliance with segregation standards and to determine ICE housing requirements based on COVID protocols.

ICE concurred with the recommendations and agreed to follow the outlined requirements going forward.