Six organizations filed a complaint with the Department for Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, based on the firsthand accounts of ten detained people, calling for an investigation into ongoing racist abuse, medical neglect, violent retaliation, punitive solitary confinement, COVID-19 negligence, religious discrimination and overall intolerable conditions at the Orange County Correctional Facility (OCCF) in Goshen,
Filed by six immigrant rights group;, including Envision Freedom Fund, Catholic Charities Community Services – Archdiocese of New York, For the Many, Freedom for Immigrants, New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; the complaint includes direct testimony recounting incidents of violence and mistreatment this year, part of a longstanding pattern of abuse.
Acccording to a statement released by the six organizations, people detained at OCCF described a “culture of blatantly racist, dehumanizing treatment and an environment of deplorable conditions and access to medical care” in violation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own protocols. The statement spoke of a “culture of fear”, where immigrants are routinely retaliated against and placed in “punitive isolation” for speaking out and advocating for their rights.
It added that Black and Latinx immigrants reporteed disparate treatment by officers and racist and anti-immigrant slurs. “My experience living here has been one of racism and mistreatment,” said “Andres,” a person detained at OCCF using a pseudonym due to fear of retaliation. “The officers here treat us like animals. . . . They have a hatred for Hispanic and Black people. . . . They lock us up in our cell all the time without any reason. . . . They harass us and put us in segregation. There is a group of officers that are especially racist, but all of the officers are responsible.”
The statement challenged the OCCF officials claim that they screen social media content for extremism in hiring staff, and maintained that the officers named in the complaint as violating immigrants’ civil rights have overtly racist and/or anti-immigrant statements in their public social media, including one officer who appears to be affiliated with multiple “nazikommando” email addresses.
“People at OCCF who speak out against their treatment and the facility’s conditions are met with violent retaliation and solitary confinement. Immigrants, who already spend most of their waking hours in isolation, locked up in their cells alone, described being locked in for additional hours, days and up to a week for arbitrary, retaliatory reasons,” added the statement.
After receiving a written warning that should not have yielded any additional discipline, said “Agustin,” also a pseudonym, “[an officer] left me locked in [my cell] the rest of the night during his shift, and the entire next day while he was on duty. There wasn’t anything written down. It was just a personal punishment, not formally recorded in a disciplinary log.”
“The people detained in the Orange County jail are risking their lives to demand protection of their dignity and human rights. Holding the jail and ICE accountable for addressing immediate health and safety issues is the absolute minimum detained people are owed,” said Tania Mattos, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Envision Freedom Fund.
“ICE and the Biden Administration continue to ignore the abuses occurring inside its detention centers, causing tremendous risk to the health, safety, and dignity of immigrants,” said Sophia Genovese, Pro Bono Supervising Attorney, Immigrant & Refugee Services at Catholic Charities Community Services.