In October of 2020, advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) received reports of Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants being subjected to physical abuse and threats of deportation while detained at Adams County Correctional Center (ACCC) in Mississippi. The reports detail how detainees were coerced and tortured into complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to fingerprint documents approving their own deportation.
These fingerprints, used in place of signatures, indicated the immigrants’ consent to initiate deportation proceedings and waive their rights to further immigration hearings. Three people provided firsthand accounts of the violent tactics ICE officers used to obtain their prints, including pepper-spraying detainees almost to the point of suffocation, breaking their fingers, and subjecting them to further physical mistreatment in unmonitored rooms. A joint complaint filed by FFI and the Southern Poverty Law Center cites eight cases of forced signatures or fingerprints on stipulated orders of removal, as well as several instances of violence.
CREW has requested all records from ICE from January 1, 2017 to the present reflecting any complaints that any immigrant detained at ACCC was subjected to violence, including threats and being choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed, or being forced to sign their own deportation orders. CREW has also requested all communications between ICE and any ACCC representative as well as communications between ICE and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General relating to any claims of such violence.
These reports again raise serious concerns about human rights violations and abusive treatment within ICE facilities. The testimonies follow those of others who have been subjected to abusive treatment and inhumane living conditions under the care of ICE, and it appears the agency continues to violate the rights of immigrants despite the release of official reports demonstrating the need to improve detainees’ living conditions and the public outrage toward forced hysterectomies performed in Georgia.
In mid-October, immigration rights group Witness at the Border tracked a flight in which 60 Cameroonian and 28 Congolese immigrants were quietly flown out of Fort Worth Alliance Airport in Texas. The plane stopped in Senegal, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya before returning to Texas. According to Witness at the Border, more deportations were carried out within that week than in any other week in 2020.
Freedom for Immigrants has claimed ICE has been increasing deportations leading up to the 2020 presidential election as part of “an effort to silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.” After reportedly losing records connecting detained immigrant children to their parents and attempting to destroy records on abuses reported by detainees earlier this year, it’s clear ICE has no reservations about covering its tracks to avoid accountability for its patterns of human rights abuses.
Obtaining these documents would shed light on these detainees’ experiences at ACCC and ICE’s responsibility in these grave human rights violations. ICE must be held accountable for their failure to protect detained asylum seekers from enduring patterns of coercion and physical abuse.