US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Officials accused of cover-up on detainee abuses

Father Tom Joyce CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In recent months newspapers have exposed the deplorable conditions in immigration detention centers, reporting that detainees were being denied legal rights and medical assistance. The death of immigrants because of neglect had moved the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to investigate and promise changes in policies.

But recently the New York Times reported that the abuses were longstanding and even led to officials covering up. The paper denounced it in an editorial: “Americans have long known that the government has been running secretive immigration prisons into which detainees have frequently disappeared, their grave illnesses and injuries untreated, their fates undisclosed until well after early and unnecessary deaths. “ (See NY Times.)

The original article by Nina Bernstein reviewed a number of cases -- one of a young Salvadoran man with a broken leg who was denied his prescribed medication. This contributed to his taking his own life and a subsequent cover-up by officials. There also were investigations that uncovered the neglect and abuse and a paper/electronic trail documenting the cover-up. Still ICE neglected to inform family or rebuffed inquiries. Documents were only released to the public after the NY Times and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition under the Freedom of Information Act. Some of the officials involved in the cover-up are still with the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigrant Youth Push Back

The activism of immigrant youth for comprehensive immigration reform is nothing new -- nor is the fact that many of them marching in the big rallies of two years ago were undocumented. Lately, the undocumented youth are beginning to come out of the shadows and publicly press for reform. Three youth from Miami are walking to Washington to call attention to the fact that reform is long overdue. In Chicago, the Rigo Padilla case – previously mentioned in this blog – occasioned the organization of the Immigrant Youth Justice League . Coming out into the open entails some peril for the students, but not much. ICE admits that they are a low priority. Still they were nervous, and it was a courageous act.