Immigrants’ Rights and Human Rights Organizations File Civil Rights Complaint Exposing Torture, Sexual Abuse, and Medical Neglect of a Hunger Striker at a Louisiana ICE Detention Center

Washington, D.C., March 30, 2023 – Yesterday, a group of legal and community organizations including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Freedom for Immigrants, ACLU-LA, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mujeres Luchadoras, Home is Here NOLA, and Louisiana AID filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on behalf of Daniel Cortes De La Valle, a 32-year-old man who is currently detained at the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Center (CLIPC) in Jena, LA. Mr. Cortes De La Valle has a life-threatening seizure condition and has engaged in several hunger strikes to protest and advocate for his right to medical treatment. The complaint outlines egregious abuse that Mr. Cortes De La Valle has experienced in detention and calls for his immediate release from custody to seek specialist medical care and reunite with his wife and two young children in Florida.

Since his detention by ICE in late 2022, Mr. Cortes De La Valle has been subjected to medical abuse amounting to torture, severe medical neglect, denial of his seizure medication, use of force, and verbal abuse related to his seizure condition. When he reported this medical neglect and abuse by filing grievances with the facility and oversight bodies, Mr. Cortes De La Valle experienced retaliation, threats, and further harassment from ICE and facility staff, including medical providers.

On February 6, 2023, while seeking medical treatment for his deteriorating health, he was sexually assaulted by medical personnel. As a result of this sexual assault, Mr. Cortes De La Valle experienced severe psychological distress and suicidal ideation, leading him to attempt suicide the next day. On March 1, 2023, medical personnel and ICE contractors subjected Mr. Cortes De La Valle to medical acts which may constitute medical abuse amounting to torture – drilling a hole into his knee bone and injecting medication directly into his bone without consent, pain medication, or anesthesia.

Mr. Cortes De La Valle continues to protest against this ongoing mistreatment. “I want them to treat me like a human being. These people are torturing me,” said Mr. Cortes De La Valle. “I have to starve myself just to advocate for my medical treatment.”

“The abuse that Daniel has endured at the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Center is horrific and unimaginably cruel,” said Sarah Decker, staff attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Daniel, like all people in ICE detention, has the First Amendment right to advocate for himself. He has worked to raise awareness of the widespread abuse taking place at CLIPC by filing grievances, participating in mass hunger strikes, and speaking with attorneys and press. But when Daniel did engage in these constitutionally protected activities, ICE and its contractors retaliated with torture, violence, and the use of solitary confinement – in clear violation of Daniel’s First Amendment rights.”

Mr. Cortes De La Valle’s case is emblematic of a broader pattern of systemic human and civil rights violations at the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Center and under the ICE New Orleans Field Office at large. In 2016, CLIPC attracted scrutiny after three immigrants detained there died within the first six months of the year. A subsequent Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) investigation focused largely on suicide prevention, medical care, and conditions of confinement found that improper medical response contributed to these deaths. In 2021, CRCL announced its unprecedented decision to open an investigation into the entire NOLA ICE area of responsibility (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabamba, Arkansas, and Tennessee) in response to the alarming volume of complaints and allegations of local ICE leadership’s complicity.

“We’re calling for the immediate release of Daniel so that he may begin the process of healing and be reunited with his family and children,” said Sofia Casini, Director of Monitoring and Community Advocacy at Freedom for Immigrants. “From the moment Daniel entered detention, he’s been faced with a never-ending nightmare of life-endangering medical neglect, torture, sexual assault, and overall dehumanizing and humiliating treatment. But despite all of this, Daniel has remained resolute in his fight to expose these abuses, even organizing with others in their collective struggle for freedom. The recent mass hunger strike of roughly 300 people underscores the urgent need to free every last person and close this detention center for good, because all people are deserving of justice, freedom, and their human dignity.”

In addition to Mr. Cortes De La Valle’s consideration for release, the legal and community organizations called for an investigation into his case, as well as a broader DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties investigation into medical practices, use of force, verbal abuse, retaliation, and violations of First Amendment rights at the Central Louisiana Immigration Processing Center.

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is 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, RFK Human Rights advocates for key human rights issues, championing change makers 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.

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