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Female Immigrants say Florida Jail Hasn’t Stopped ICE Officers from Sexually Abusing them

Documented

Nov 07, 2022

WASHINGTON DC - CIRCA AUGUST 2019: ICE Immigration Customs Enforcement

This summary about sexual abuse at a Florida jail was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has received reports from female immigrants detained at Florida’s Baker County Detention Center about ICE officers sexually abusing them, according to a new ACLU Florida complaint. But ICE and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office have still failed to share any long-term remedy, the complaint stated. 

Now, the ACLU is urging ICE and the federal Office of Inspector General to facilitate access to U-visas for the women, which would provide them temporary immigration status as victims of crimes. 

What happened? Female immigrants — including 60 year-old Hyacinth Marlene Bailey from Jamaica — have reported waking up to officers taking photos of them in their undergarments. They’ve also reported officers watching them use the bathroom, including when taking a shower or changing clothes. 

Bailey has written a personal complaint to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office. She said she became a victim of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in May and then faced retaliation for speaking out. 

The ACLU wrote in their PREA complaint last week that a male officer demanded Bailey keep her cell door open when she needed privacy to use the restroom. Bobbeth Morgan, another detainee, reported that an ICE officer took photos of her while in her undergarments in bed, the complaint noted.

Katie Blankenship, the Deputy Legal Director at ACLU Florida stated that “women who have been detained at Baker for more than a year confirm that they have never been provided privacy curtains,” and “women have been threatened with solitary confinement if they attempt to cover their cell windows with a blanket for privacy.”

Even after these incidents were reported to the Baker County Detention Center Staff and the Sheriff’s office, they did not provide the women with privacy curtains, the complaint said. The women said they were moved a different housing pod, but reported they can still be seen undressing in one cell. Several cells are also now housing multiple women, forcing some women to sleep on the floor, according to the complaint.

ICE is being urged to treat these women’s allegations as evidence of crime: The ACLU recommended a number of solutions in their new PREA complaint: Victim services at no charge to the detainees; U-visas providing them with temporary immigration status; their release; and an investigation of the abuse at the jail; among other things. 

Baker County jail has a history of abuse: The Florida Immigrant Detention Database shows that there have been over 100 complaints filed out of Baker county alone since 2017. In May this year, immigrants went on a hunger strike after being subjected to racism, bug-infested food, use of force, and other things. Just last month, the ACLU sued the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for illegally denying in-person attorney visits to people detained at the Baker County detention center. 

Read more in the complaints and personal letters the female immigrants wrote about illegal voyeurism and more.

STORIES WE ARE FOLLOWING 

New York

Randall’s Island tent shelter remains less than half full: The number of migrants being transported from Texas has slowed and some migrants have given positive reviews about the tent compared to other housing conditions. New York Times

Medical student helps uninsured migrant access health clinic: Fabiola Plaza recalls helping a woman who moved to New York from South America 2 months ago access needed health care. — Read the thread here.

Around the U.S. 

Twitter employees on H-1B visas fear deportation after layoffs: Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows Twitter has received approval for 673 H1-B visas since 2009. — Business Insider

New report shows disparate treatment of Black migrants in detention: Black immigrants account for only 6% of people in ICE detention, yet they account for 28% of all abuse-related calls to the Detention Hotline. — Report by BAJI, FFI, others

Private school vouchers let kids of color attend faith-based schools: While vouchers for private schools are politically controversial, some low-income parents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s predominantly African American north side and Latino south side say the schools teach important values. — AP News

Washington D.C.

Human rights groups want to include immigrants in marijuana pardons: They want the Biden administration to ensure immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions. — Human Rights Watch

Accused Paul Pelosi attacker could be deported after release from custody: USCIS lodged an “immigration detainer” on the 42-year-old Canadian, requesting the San Francisco County Jail notify ICE before DePape is done serving time so it can take custody of him. — CNBC

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