DHS Complaint Details Horrific Conditions, Abuse at Louisiana ICE Jail
New York, NY (June 21, 2021)
—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA) and 15 other social justice and advocacy organizations, has filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on the horrific conditions and systematic human rights violations at Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana.
The for-profit detention center, run by the GEO Group, used prolonged and often racially-driven solitary confinement practices to the point of constituting torture under international human rights law. RFK Human Rights and ISLA’s investigation also found that Pine Prairie repeatedly failed to provide people with basic necessities, including clean water, medical services, and access to legal counsel—demonstrating how ICE’s jails often fall short of the agency’s own minimum standards of care.
The coalition of immigrant rights advocates who signed onto the RFK Human Rights and ISLA DHS complaint include ACLU of Louisiana, Al Otro Lado, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Cameroonian American Council, Center for Constitutional Rights, Freedom for Immigrants, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition, National Immigration Project, Operation Restoration, Project South, Puentes New Orleans, Rapid Defense Network, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, and the Tulane Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.
The complaint details several urgent demands for DHS to address the conditions at Pine Prairie, including immediately ending the routine, inhumane use of punitive solitary confinement, expanding the release of people on immigration bond, and placing people who have contracted COVID-19—and those who are at risk of exposure—into proper medical isolation units rather than solitary. The agency has been given 30 days to respond.
While no amount of reform can justify ICE’s jails, the coalition involved in the complaint recognizes that these measures could vastly improve the quality of life for people currently detained at Pine Prairie as they await a determination of their immigration status or face deportation and removal proceedings, and hopefully lead to greater, systemwide change.
“What we’ve seen in Pine Prairie is horrifying and, by no means, an exception,” said Homero López, legal director for ISLA. “ICE continuously uses private prison companies, including the GEO Group, in an attempt to cover the human suffering that they carry out. Those private prison companies are more than willing to inflict and ignore the misery that immigrants suffer in order to line their pockets and gain more profits. This is the reality for tens of thousands of people who are locked up in ICE’s jails across the country and it’s time for DHS, and frankly all of us, to demand better.”
“Who occupies the White House might have changed but the problems within the U.S. immigration system remain just as harrowing and demand our attention,” said Sarah Decker, attorney at RFK Human Rights. “We hope our investigation and DHS complaint will drive the Biden administration to not only take action against ICE’s New Orleans Field Office but to follow through on his promise to close private detention centers for good.”
For more information on RFK Human Rights and its immigration work, visit RFKHumanRights.org/NOLA_ICE.
Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA) is a New Orleans-based legal services organization that defends the rights of immigrant communities and advocates for just and humane immigration policy. ISLA specifically provides detained immigrants at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center with pro bono representation under a universal representation model before the Oakdale Immigration Court. Through this service, ISLA ensures that detained immigrants’ due process rights are protected and that clients do not have to attend these hearings and present their cases on their own.
We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing changemakers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.