Some Caribbean Immigrants In Detention Are Locked Up In Solitary For Months

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Protesters drive in a caravan around Immigration and Customs Enforcement El Paso Processing Center to demand the release of ICE detainees due to safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 outbreak on April 16, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by PAUL RATJE/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images)
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By NAN Staff Writer

NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 24, 2020: A Haitian immigrant in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention was locked up in solitary confinement for 174 days while a national of Antigua and Barbuda-born immigrant was locked up for 163 days.

Their crime? One reportedly showed “violent or disruptive behavior” while the other had a mental illness. Another Haitian immigrant spent 62 days in solitary, or locked down for 22 hours a day, in Essex, New Jersey, because that migrant was supposed to be in protective custody.

They are among dozens of black immigrants from the Caribbean who were dealt with disproportionately harsh while in custody for immigration violations in the US.

The new findings by researchers at the University of California concludes are based on analysis of records contained in trove of incident reports that describe the placement of thousands of detainees in solitary confinement. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shared the reports with the researchers while reporting Solitary Voices, an investigation that found ICE routinely segregates troublesome detainees, including the mentally ill, in small isolation cells for weeks and months at a time.

Some detainees are placed in solitary confinement for their own protection, or to protect others the report says. But much of the time, isolation is punishment for a disciplinary infraction, such as fighting, possessing contraband or horseplay, ICIJ found.

Researchers found that ICE detainees from predominantly black countries had been placed in solitary confinement six times as often as detainees from other countries.

“The treatment of black immigrants in detention mirrors that of black individuals in jails and prisons,” said Keramet Reiter, an associate professor at University of California, Irvine, and a co-author of the study.

“It appears that dark skinned individuals are more quickly and readily disciplined with long periods of solitary than their lighter skinned counterparts,” Nathan Craig, an assistant professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University who is not affiliated with the University of California study, commented.

ICE did not immediately respond to questions about the finding of racial disparities in its isolation practices. The agency previously defended its use of solitary confinement in response to ICIJ findings, saying its use of the practice falls below rates in prison systems around the U.S.

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