Sunday, March 18, 2018

No Ban, No Wall V

The good news this week includes the filing by the ACLU of a lawsuit naming ICE for cruel and unusual punishment.  The bad news has it that the lawsuit was filed after U.S. immigration authorities separated a Congolese mother and her six-year-old daughter who came to the U.S. seeking asylum.

After four days in detention, authorities abruptly took her daughter way and flew her 2,000 miles away (remember, our taxes pay for air fare) to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Chicago. The woman, Mrs. L., could hear the child screaming in the next room. The child turned seven during the four months she was held without her mother.

Under pressure from the ACLU lawsuit, ICE released Ms. L, giving her only a few hours notice before sending her into the detention center parking lot with a plastic bag containing her few belongings and nowhere to go.

In other news, the San Jose Mercury News published a letter in support of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s defiance of Trump and Sessions, and their immigration policies, from a reader whose grandparents lived in Berlin during the time Hitler was in power. His grandmother was Jewish.  

“A Berlin police officer was a friend and, risking his own life, would call them and want them of any planned Gestapo raids. We owe our lives to this man. I see parallels in today’s America. ICE is instilling fear in the immigrant community, going after otherwise law-abiding, hard-working people whose only crime is wanting a better life. [By alerting Oakland residents of the coming ICE raids, Schaaf] has shown the same moral fiber and courage as the Berlin police officer.”

And Daily Kos reported that on Thursday ICE was fixing to deport David Chavez-Macias who suffers from  an incurable heart condition, which amounts to a death sentence (not for ICE, for the deportee, unfortunately.) And weekly planeloads land in San Salvador carrying 460 Salvadoreans many of them given TPS temporary status from the civil war, who have been forced by ICE to return to El Salvador.

David Chavez-Macias and his wife
The question to us is: in Hitler’s Germany, would we have acted like “good Germans.” or would we have stood aside? The way we act now provides the answer.


Find either a detention center near you, or ICE headquarters near you. Create a presence there, even if you start out alone. Get folks to join you. Smack pots and pans. 

Berkeley, CA residents: e-mail your council members at demanding they vote for the ballot measure “Berkeley Community United for Police Oversight.”

This week we run the fourth and last section of the La Bloga’s 2010 article:

Jean Blum: Finger in Goliath’s Eye - Part IV 
published in La Bloga, May 9. 2010 

Corrections Corporation of America’s shares have split twice, multiplied ten-fold. Net profits listed in 2005 of $23.4 million ballooned to $67 the first six months of 2009, representing the largest market share of privately run facilities. Its stockholders number government officials including Dick Cheney, who at last count held stock valued at $85 million.

A sputtering audit

As far back as 2001, complaints from immigrant detention facilities nationwide started to flood the Department of Homeland Security’s inboxes. In response DHS ordered an audit. Although the list of targeted facilities initially stood at 18, after a long delay it was reduced to only five. The Passaic County Jail under the authority of Sheriff Jerry Speziale was notorious enough to make the final cut. In 2005 ninety-four PCJ detainees turned in complaint sheets indicating alleged areas of mistreatment and abuse. Of these 19 declined to be interviewed. Conceivably the OIG’s unwillingness to allow them to talk with a lawyer present may have led to some reluctance. Of the remaining 75, the OIG cherry-picked 32.

But the arrival of what were largely inexperienced auditors in June of 2005 led to mounting recriminations on Sheriff Speziale’s part so that by July 2005 he had ordered them out of “his” jail on charges of “arrogance.” Summoned to Washington in August, presumably for a reprimand, Speziale returned undaunted, having managed to finesse a new federal contract allowing Passaic County to substitute U.S. Marshall prisoners for immigrant detainees. At the same rate of $77 a day per prisoner “bed,” the Passaic County General Fund would get hardly any time to suffer. The auditors were reinstated in August, and by December the detainees had begun to be removed to other facilities, but an official report from DHS had to wait until November of 2006 when the initial shock of Abu Ghraib had died down.

Shortly after the report’s publication an internal e-mail dated January 19, 2007 by a reporter from the North Jersey News Group queried the DHS: “several former Passaic detainees have called me and said that they told the auditors about abuse, beatings, withholding of food, etc. by jail staffers, but felt those claims weren’t reflected in the final audit.” Tamara Faulkner of the DHS replied: “We could not develop sufficient evidence to substantiate the credibility of these cases….For example one detainee stated that he was beaten by the correctional officers and slammed to the floor. We could not find documentary evidence such as medical reports, incident reports, or physical evidence to substantiate the allegation….”

Blum was not surprised by the DHS’s watered down report. As far back as June, 2005 she had received a letter from detainee Roddy Sanchez stating: “On June 8, 2005 immigration officers from Washington D.C. came to see us….I thought they’re going to stop by and listen to our complaints; instead they said they were coming [back] and they never did.”

Blum points out that, far from ending any abuses, shipping the detainees from Passaic to other more distant facilities, some in retaliation for having filed their complaints with the Office of the Inspector General in the first place, occasioned more travel inconvenience for their families and lawyers who needed to visit. It caused Blum to have to curtail her activism because she could no longer afford the detainees’ collect long-distance calls on her retiree’s income, nor could she be as effective with administrators with whom she had not had reason to develop open channels of communication. And it did not put an end to abuses at Passaic County Jail where in 2006 the use of dogs was shortly re-introduced.

The business of detention is business

“When you take to activism, you need to know what you are doing,” states Blum. “At the time I joined it, the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee was calling for the release of all immigrants held in administrative detention, but I realized that nothing of the sort was going to happen any time soon…. At $77 dollars a day, nobody gives up that kind of money.”

All detention facilities, public and private, enter into a contractual agreement with the Department of Homeland Security/ICE to house detainees. It is in their interest to obtain the most favorable rate per diem and to keep their overhead low. This they accomplish by overcrowding, by providing inadequate diet and poor-to-nonexistent medical attention and by keeping staff salaries and training to a minimum, resulting in the kinds of prison abuse both verbal and physical, documented earlier. In 2003, at $28,000 per inmate/year plus a 10% commissary markup, housing detainees brought in $12 million to the Passaic County Jail, which according to the sheriff’s department spokesperson passed directly into the county general fund.

County and Federally run jails are now in competition with privately run facilities, of which the numbers rose from 5 in 1990 to over 200 by 2000, But if evidence serves, compared to publicly run facilities, privately operated facilities such as those run by Corrections Corporation of America (with 63 facilities in 19 states) compete to bring their overhead even lower. To secure a profitable bottom line, C.C.A lobbies a compliant congress for stricter detention rules; it secures its interests through the use of interlocking directorates, political contributions, and expensive lobbying; to head key projects, it hires retired government administrators and military personnel to guarantee results.

Although it will soon be converted to house only female detainees, C.C.A.’s T. Don Hutto facility in Texas, initially billed as “America’s family residence,” housed women, (some of them pregnant), children and infants in Kevlar tents, and required them to wear prison uniform (even the children). Inmates brought in up to $200 per inmate/day. The chaplain (who doubles as spokesman for C.C.A.’s Houston Processing Center) stated, “we’re here to take care of the product they deliver to us. Until they’re deported we take care of the detainees as best we can.”

In a 2008 conference call to investors, from company headquarters in Tennessee, Chief Operations Officer John D. Ferguson got specific about what that care might be. “The intent now is to detain everyone that’s apprehended at the border and charge them initially with something called ‘entry without inspection.’ That will be a misdemeanor, requiring somewhere between 15 and 30 days of detention. So then persons with [a] deportation [order] or minimum conviction, which means someone who…committed [a] misdemeanor, will face a felony charge, which could lead to six months to two years of detention or incarceration.” Enthused by the President’s fiscal 2009 budget, he stated, “We see that the budget supports the detention population of 33,000 inmate detainee beds—that’s up from 27,500 the previous year and quite above what the…original budget was. What I am most encouraged about is everything we are hearing says 33,000 is still not enough.”

In keeping with the New World Order, the manipulation of language to serve unconstitutional ends is also reflected in the directives of the office of Detention and Removal (DRO), a sub-agency of ICE, which calls its ten-year plan “Endgame,” an eerie echo of “Final Solution,” the term referring to extermination preferred by the Nazi Third Reich. Its goal is removal of all removable aliens by 2012, including 590,000 persons ignoring deportation orders, and 630,000 “criminal” aliens (most of them broken tail light and ‘entry without inspection’ folks), a total of 1,220,000 souls. And John D. Ferguson’s low-end projections notwithstanding, according to Marjorie Meyers, chief federal defender of South Texas, people convicted of illegal re-entry are actually receiving anywhere from four to eight years in jail. “As a result they are pushing undocumented people deeper and deeper underground so they are more exploitable,” according to Lisa Brody, a San Benito Texas attorney.

Since 2001, Corrections Corporation of America’s shares have split twice, multiplied ten-fold, closing recently at $24.28. Net profits listed in 2005 annual report of $23.4 million ballooned to $67 million in the first six months of 2009, representing the largest market share of privately run facilities. Its stockholders number government officials including Dick Cheney who at last count held stock valued at $85 million. Although Corrections Corporation of America ranks first in the percentage of detainee deaths of any public or privately run operator, last available records indicate that CEO Ferguson took home $3 million in 2007 executive compensation.

Holding detainees is not only profitable to government and privately run jails, but it also serves other corporate interests as well. Standing to benefit are telephone companies (prison telephone cards cost $10 for the first 5 minutes); weapons manufacturers, transport and healthcare companies, and food service firms, even hi-tech concerns. Obviating the passé need for tattooed numbers on prisoner forearms, promotional copy for one such corporation reads, “The Quetel Corporation hopes for vigorous sales of its new system to bar code prisoners and equip guards with monitoring scanners.”

In the face of ICE’s operation “Return to Sender” increasing the arrest quota for its fugitive teams from 125 in 2003 to 1,000 in 2009 Jenni Gainsborough of the ACLU’s National Prison Project states the obvious: “[There is a] basic philosophical problem when you begin turning over administration of prisons to people who have an interest in keeping people locked up.”

Not the change we've waited for

Detainee retention policies are in urgent need of review but as recently as August, 2009, the Obama administration declared that it would have to wait until 2010 to overhaul any immigration laws put in place during the Bush years other than shifting some of its emphasis to holding employers responsible for hiring illegal workers. But a recent federal investigation of American Apparel, a Los Angeles clothing manufacturer, which turned up certain irregularities in the identity documents provided by some workers resulted in the firing of 1,800 people, presumably driving them deeper into the underground economy.

According to a New York Times editorial of October 1, John Morton, the director of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, is quoted calling it “a milestone in the fight against illegal immigration.” “But,” questions the Times, “one has to ask who benefits from a crackdown like this….A crackdown that forces 1,800 taxpaying would-be Americans into joblessness in a dismal economy is a law enforcement victory only in the bitterest, narrowest sense. As a solution to the problem of unauthorized workers—1,800 down, millions to go—it’s ludicrous.”

In October, 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that plans were underway to “improve” the immigrant detention system. The department proposed to consolidate detainees in facilities where conditions would more appropriately reflect their status as non-criminals; it would provide reliable medical care for them, and it would set up a system of more centralized oversight. Still lacking in this proposal, however, are any provisions for enforceable standards governing due process oversight to insure people are no longer detained without cause, especially over protracted periods of time. Lacking as well is any commitment to developing alternatives to detention, particularly for those with families. And no provision is made for oversight of immigration law enforcement by local police through the 287(g) program (which deputizes state and local law enforcement agents to catch illegal immigrants), and the “Criminal Alien” laws which allow local police to collaborate with ICE agents in the harassment of innocent people by such practices as workplace raids, racial profiling and midnight home raids such as those recently occurring in East Hampton, N.Y., in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Jean Blum

For Jean Blum, retiree living on a fixed income, during the many months she worked tirelessly to aid detainees, despite the pressure, there must have been something driving her to play David to such a colossal Goliath. “You have phone calls coming day and night. Once the detainees had been moved, I still got calls from Bergen Country or Monmouth County—collect charges I could no longer afford. The authorities [at Monmouth and Bergen] were too far away for me to advocate effectively any longer. Eventually you burn out. But I am very much aware of the issues involving people who are displaced. I could not turn my back because that is my own history as a Holocaust survivor but love has little to do with it,” she says. “I am not conscious of harboring feelings of love.”

Asked to comment about Napolitano’s recently proposed reforms, she is uncompromising. “Comment? Are you kidding? Throw all the bums out and start over again? Except there are no different bums to take over the reins! Things were better under [the Bush administration]. Lawlessness was the order of the day and there was no doubt about that. After [Bush] the deluge is where we are now.”

Common Dreams: Eleven mayors applauded for refusing to do business with any companies not supporting net neutrality.

Conor Lamb takes a seta as a Democrat in the U.S. House, in a district Trumpeter won by 20% last time around.

Sparring world “leaders” suddenly decide maybe the negotiating table is a better barnyard.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


One of my readers recently remarked that, by addressing themes of immigration, and immigrant detention and deportation, this newsletter seemed to be wandering off topic.  I hereby remind readers that the issue continues and will always be personal to me: much of my childhood misery originates from my Mexican father’s undocumented status.  In the years before my birth, the U. S. suffered one of its periodic attacks of xenophobia, deporting up to 2,000,000 Mexicans. My father had every good reason to live in fear—despite his many advanced degrees, despite his exceptional linguistic abilities. But more centrally, the overarching topic is and always has been the total oppression which subsumes all other issues, and to which all other issues are related.

Late January, ICE amused themselves deporting Joel Colindres despite his valid marriage, his approved I-130 visa, no criminal record, the two children he leaves behind—and his still-pending case pleading for asylum in the 5th district court. And today Truthout reports that when undocumented families are detained, they are now being split up. Parents are being detained separately from their children, often miles away. The Daily Kos reported that fear of mass deportations is keeping families away from food distribution centers, and children from attending school with access to free school lunch programs. Hunger in America? The richest country in the world? 

Black humor has it that to fund the Pentagon giveaway, and the new tax scam, the government is expected to announce that ICE will start deporting seniors instead of people of color to lower social security and medicare costs. Older people are easier to catch and won’t remember how to get back home.

Deportation news this week also includes the story of a young 19-year-old man, shot to death by S.F. finest at 21st and Capp Streets, San Francisco. His last cry was: “I don’t want to be deported.” No one does—that is, not until indefinite detention in immigration jail becomes so utterly dehumanizing and intolerable, people are reduced to begging for relief. What does intolerable consist in? Needing to urinate and defecate in plastic bags because no jailers are available to let a detainee out of his/her cell to use the one common bathroom.

How long would we tolerate such conditions without either crying “uncle” or going stark raving?

Reverend Deborah Lee at the Interfaith Movement for Human Dignity, who is organizing vigils outside the Richmond California West County Detention Center, had this to say: “We can’t just watch the immigration policy of this country play itself out and do nothing while ICE and the Border Patrol hunt people down and tear families apart. The administration talks about our efforts to protect people and fight this…system as though this was just a state or a city passing a law to defy their enforcement efforts….These laws exist because our community is making a moral commitment and acting on it….Sanctuary isn’t just a law: it’s our community defending people in danger.”

This week, we run Part III of my 2009 article, originally published by La Bloga, Finger in Goliath’s Eye, based on my ten- day-long interview of Jean Blum, a Holocaust survivor, and volunteer in the detention the Patterson N.J. and Monmouth County jails, in which she blows the whistle on the first reported “disappearance” of an immigrant held in deportation detention, Tanveer Ahmad. “The difficulty of confirming [Tanveer] Ahmad’s very existence showed that death could fall between the cracks in immigration detention, the hundreds of county jails, for-profit prisons and federal detention centers where more than 400,000 people a year are held while the government tries to deport them.”

Jean Blum: Finger in Goliath’s Eye - Part III

"Therefore with all humbleness I am seeking your compassion by asking you please, your Honor, allow me a visit with my children. Please, your Honor, I don’t want to abandon my children due to circumstances beyond my control. I am asking you please to grant me one favor to say goodbye and don’t take my motherly rights away from me.” . . . Juliette Tucker was ordered deported without being allowed to see her children.

"DHS/ICE is breaking our families apart”

In immigrant detention, scant attention is paid to “family values.” A summary of grievances by detainees at Monmouth County [NJ] Jail dated January 16, 2006 contains the following: “Over 95% of the detainees here are New York based…. All of our families [reside] in New York. DHS/ICE…never in their minds, have they ever taken the hardship for our families to travel over “3 HOURS” (round trip) to see us. What is even [worse] is that the visit is only “15 MINUTES.”

And behind bulletproof glass, furthermore, a lot of the detainees are getting deported without being able to even hug or kiss our parents, kids, wife, etc...! [They] are being deported on a daily basis, on an unknown date. [Fifteen] minutes just for them to say “goodbye” seems really bad! It is just extreme hardship for our families to travel so far for 15 minutes only. DHS/ICE is breaking our families apart before they even try to deport us!”

Roddy Sanchez in a letter to Blum dated June 11, 2005 states: “A lot of times when night falls, I cry because I have a newborn daughter. I got my whole family out here, but when you go in front of the judge they tell you, take your family back to your country, or the judge will say they can always go on welfare….” But the dreams and hopes of most detainees with families do not include taking them back with them to their country of origin, and in many instances, family members are legitimate citizens of the United States.”

Quoted in the NJCRDC’s Voices, in May of 2004 a Sierra Leone journalist in Hudson County Jail writes: “In the event of my deportation, I am afraid that my fiancé and two kids will suffer tremendously, because they depend on me for everything. Who will provide shelter for them? Who will be their role model? Who will be concerned about them going to college? Who will feed them?”

But the display by the presiding authorities of Passaic County Jail of the kinds of casual cruelty that ripped families apart is perhaps best exemplified by two accounts cited here. Although detainees held in “administrative detention,” and not classified as criminals, their treatment is comparable to that of ordinary prisoners. Joseph Elchin’s letter addressed to Blum of June, 2005 states that, despite the repeated pleas of his sister, and the initiatives on his behalf by the public defender, he was not allowed to speak to his sister who wished to notify him that his mother was dying and had been rushed to the hospital to be placed on a ventilator. “As a matter of fact, no one from this institution ever informed me of anything. I [only] learned of the situation when I called home Monday evening.”

The Passaic County Sheriff’s department and the jail warden refused him the privilege of visiting his mother on her deathbed before she was removed from the ventilator. “Judge Guzman had denied such bedside visit stating that ‘if I wanted to pay my last respects I could do so at the funeral.’” But in fact, arrangements for him to attend his mother’s funeral were denied when, despite intercession by his sister and the Public Defender, “Judge Guzman refused to sign the order.”

The Eichin case, a criminal one, can be compared to a similar case, this one affecting an immigrant detainee. In a letter dated Sept. 26, 2005 addressed to Judge Patricia E. Henry, Juliette Tucker, who is about to be deported to Jamaica writes: “I have been in the United States for eight years and have never had any criminal involvement. As you know I have three beautiful children who need their mother. …I am pleading not so much for myself, but for my children. …Please take this plea into consideration by allowing me to take all three children with me to Jamaica….My plan is to go to Jamaica first and shortly after I send for my children….Due to this, your Honor, I will truly like to see my children before I leave on the 24 October, 2005. Therefore with all humbleness I am seeking your compassion by asking you please, your Honor, allow me a visit with my children. Please, your Honor, I don’t want to abandon my children due to my circumstances beyond my control. I am asking you please to grant me one favor to say goodbye and don’t take my motherly rights away from me.” And although Jean Blum tried to effect an intervention on her behalf, Juliette Tucker was ordered deported without being allowed to see her children.

Deportees are expelled with little more than the shirts on their backs. “Basically they are sent back to a country, not even necessarily their own,” Blum explains. “They arrive at the airport of the receiving country with no resources and no means to contact their families.” In a letter addressed to her from Kingston Jamaica dated August 2, 2005, detainee Barry Walker writes: “When they gave me the flight paper on Friday July 29, they took me straight to the airport with no notice to get any clothes or money together. Somehow I made it home here to my family and I am just breathing a bit of freedom….Because you are a person among people, I know faith will bring us together again one day.”

Prison abuse, physical and verbal, inadequate diet, medical neglect, casual cruelty and disregard of their civil and human rights discourage prisoners from fighting their deportation orders. “Many eventually give up the struggle,” says Blum, “but these may be considered the lucky ones.” Some—no one knows exactly how many—never get the chance to make that despairing choice.

The dead, the disappeared

Still unverified is another kind of Homeland Security list. In his affidavit of December 12, 2005, on behalf of his client’s imminent deportation to Syria, Shayana Kadidal cites the case of one ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Musa deported from the United States to Syria in January 2005 and who “has not been heard from since.” He includes mention of one Nabil al-Marabh, also deported to Syria in 2004 who has “not been heard from again. Amnesty sources indicate that he has been imprisoned and has been tortured.”

Although as early as 2007 the New York Times had begun drawing attention to immigrant deaths in detention, it was not until April 3, 2009 that it was able to publish an account describing how, in September of 2005 Jean Blum had received a letter addressed to the NJCRDC and copied to ALAFFA reporting the death of one “Ahmed Tender.” Written in broken English, nonetheless the message was clear enough: “Today one of the INS immigration die….No emergency, and the jail very very [careless] about INS detainees. Mr. Ahmed complain about chest pain. Before he die was saying the officer Mr. Ahmed [lie] too much. The officer say Mr. Ahmed to wait….As Mr. Ahmed arrival in the emergency room he die. So Mr. Ahmed death is need to be investigated… we care very much. Because that can happen to any one of us.”

Blum forwarded a copy to the Joint Intake Center of the Department of Homeland Security where it became the subject of an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security/ICE file dated September 26, 2005 which might never have come to light if the ACLU had not obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in 2008 after an in-depth inquiry by the New York Times.

The file reads: “Synopsis: On September 20, 2005, the Joint Intake Center (JIC), Washington, D.C., received a packet of correspondence from Ms. Jean Blum, President, American Liberty and Freedom for All (ALAFFA), Paterson, NJ. According to the information received, Mr. Ahmed Tander, a Pakistani detainee housed at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute, died on September 10, 2005, allegedly from a heart attack whose symptoms were obvious, severe and ignored until it was too late.”

The death of Tanveer Ahmad (the correct spelling of his name) is of unusual significance because the immigration authorities could produce no record that Mr. Ahmad had ever been detained in the first place, let alone that he had died in their custody. Without the intervention of Jean Blum, this incident might never have come to light. Tom Jawetz of the ACLU reflected on the troubling aspects of this particular case: “We still do not know and we cannot know if there are other deaths that have never been disclosed by ICE or that ICE itself knows nothing about.” Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren pleading the necessity for greater accountability to Congress wondered if failure to report this death reflected carelessness or “something more sinister.”

Said the Times (April 3, 2009): “The difficulty of confirming [Tanveer] Ahmad’s very existence showed that death could fall between the cracks in immigration detention, the hundreds of county jails, for-profit prisons and federal detention centers where more than 400,000 people a year are held while the government tries to deport them.”

Although deaths in detention were fairly frequent, prior to 2007, the only documentation available was a list cobbled together by relatives of the deceased or their advocates. As recently as 2007, it included only some 20 names. Through a FOIA request ICE eventually disclosed 62 detention deaths since 2004 but declined to provide names, dates, locations or causes until compelled to do so. By May 5, 2008, the list included 66 names. And by April 3, 2009 it stood at 92. The publication of an article listing the deaths of two more detainees, previously unreported, brought the list to 94. A sudden increase of ten more, as reported by the New York Times on August 8, 2009 brought the master list to 104 and then 106, where it stands today.

An examination of the statistical information for 2005 at Passaic County Jail lists 75 suicide attempts in that year alone, and one “successful” suicide —number 35 on the ICE master list— which also includes one death “of natural causes,” seven deaths by hanging, 6 cases of asphyxia, 1 death by drowning, (both the latter findings raise a number of questions), and, interestingly, one cause of death, (in Corrections Corporation of America’s Elizabeth facility) that of Boubacar Bah, which was initially listed as “brain hemorrhage, fractured skull” and is now listed as “undetermined.” One death is attributed to electrocution. According to a New York Times article dated May 5, 2008, the detainee, Mr. Cesar Gonzalez-Baeza, was operating a jackhammer that hit a power line. Such an unusual cause of death raises an interesting question: what was an immigrant detainee doing operating a jackhammer?

Detainee Gonzalez-Baeza’s death (and Ruth Jean-Baptiste’s accident while washing floors cited earlier) may have been related to the decades-old practice of leasing out cheap prison labor in American jails and detention centers to private corporations. There have been attempts by Congress—such as the Hawes Cooper Act (effective 1934) and the Ashurst-Sumner Act, (1935) which tried to eliminate prison-plantations and ‘factories with fences’; but by 1990, with their repeal, it became permissible for prisoners to produce products entering the stream of interstate commerce. According to Andrew Bosworth, an assistant professor of Government at the University of Texas at Brownsville, “many of the largest corporations in America have exploited prison labor in what might be called ‘Operation Sweatshop.’ Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, Victoria’s Secret and other companies have participated in prison labor programs.”

Please share the Colindres story and share this petition to help.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Immigrant detention news this week reports that SCOTUS refused to hear the administration’s appeal to end DACA, which means that for the time being, the Dreamers could be spared at least another year. But in a feat of de-Constitutionalizing acrobatics, SCOTUS ruled that ICE can detain immigrants indefinitely (shades of a domestic Guantanamo) without offering period bond hearings. Those seeking permanent legal status and those seeking asylum would not be exempt. The ruling comes as a huge windfall to private detention jails, with Congressional mandated quota of 34,000 arrests per day, projected to rise to 40,000 by the Trumpinistration. At a cost of $165 per bed per day, Geo Corporation stands to rake in more profits—beyond the 2.8 billion it hauled in as of 2016.

This week ICE arrested 154 people in Northern California. Bay Area organizers have called for an on-going daily presence @ ICE headquarters at 630 Sansome Street  between Washington and Clay Streets in San Francisco. Organizers put out calls all week long.  Here are two examples:

•Join picket line with SEIU Service Employees Union EVERY FRIDAY from 2 - 3 pm.... ICE: ​630 Sansome Street SF CA

•Rally with Immigrant Liberation Movement today (Wednesday) from noon to 6 pm at ICE at 630 Sansome, SF Note; This turn out was so successful it blocked two downtown intersections.


You Don’t Have to be Jewish to be Victim of a Holocaust

The three cases listed below are pretty representative of what’s happening now:

#FreeFernando - Meet outside 630 Sansome first for prayer and songs with the Carrillo family. Fernando was arrested and detained after dropping off his four-year-old daughter at a San Jose daycare on October 11, 2017. Fernando’s bond was denied by David Jennings, the Field Director of the ICE office in San Francisco. Even though Fernando’s Detention Officer and the Officer’s supervisor recommended that Fernando be released, based on the reference letters and other documentation that was requested, Mr. Jennings denied the request and now the Carrillo family is left with the emotional and financial burden of this decision. Please contact Sarah at  2/26 Monday 8:30 am #FreeFernando

#FreeRafa - Rafa’s father has US residency and was sure to adjust the rest of his family's status. Rafa is a hard working young man who works two restaurant jobs in order to help care for his parents and younger siblings. During one of Rafa's breaks between his two jobs, he went to the immigration office to submit paperwork regarding his adjusted status, he was detained due to a two year old DUI charge. Rafa, has not only paid the hefty fine for the DUI but, also completed DUI school. If you would like to attend the #FreeRafa pack the court please RSVP by sending an email to 2/27 Tuesday 9 am #FreeRafa 

#FreeJesus - Jesus Medrano, a father of 4 U.S. citizen children, was unlawfully and violently detained during an ICE raid in Fair Oaks, California last November. His children are hurting, especially his 5 year old who suffers from a medical condition. With increased threats of ICE raids in California, it's time that we hold ICE accountable. Support Jesus during his second bond hearing where his remaining two witnesses can testify in front of a more impartial judge - Judge Daw (compared to Judge Park from the first bond hearing). Please RSVP by sending an email to 2/28 Wednesday Noon #FreeJesus

The very good news this week: Jesus was released!  And only because of a community mass-turnout at the ICE hearing. This is just the beginning. No time to suffer from activist fatigue.

For each one of the arrestees made by ICE this week in California there are 154 more stories like this. In 1938-9 Jews left Nazi German fleeing for their lives. That was called a Holocaust. What is this?

This week, we run Part II of Finger in Goliath’s eye.

Jean Blum: Finger in Goliath’s Eye - Part II
Published in La Bloga, April 24, 2010

"I asked officer if I can make phone call to let my family know where I am. He said ‘No….’ I show him the Book for Rule [the Inmate Handbook]. He said ‘fuck the book. We here don’t use that.’” When Metwalvy appeals to the ombudsman, “he told me ‘fuck you, you mother fucker.’ I get so, so upset. He told me, “I will call the sergeant.’ [Later] the same ombudsman [jumped] on me and two [officers surrounded] me on the floor and start beating and punishing me…Another C.O. came and spray me with O.C. [pepper spray] in my eyes…5 or 6 officer was beating me. After that they…put me in the box for 30 days. They told me, ‘next time we will kill you!’”

Archive of the Detained

Over the many months Jean Blum worked directly with the immigrant detainees, she kept files of their letters and their complaints, as well as background materials as news of detainee abuse began to make headlines. Her archive, which she made available to me over the course of our ten-day interview, includes documents from the Department of Homeland Security, official “incident” reports, complaint forms filed with the Passaic County Jail administration, and letters written to her and to others by detainees, some attesting to conditions still now unimagined and unknown to most Americans. The sampling below only begins to describe the kind of conditions the detainees were enduring then and that more than 400,000 of them are still now forced to endure.

Infrastructure at Passaic County Jail during the time Jean Blum was intervening on behalf of immigrant detainees being held there is described in a 12 December 2005 affidavit filed by Shayana Kadidal, esq., of the Center for Constitutional Rights who refers to it as “an aging, decrepit facility with very poor conditions…. The roof in the main immigration detention ward was leaking, causing a greenish growth and black mold to cover the entire ceiling, which would then drip and fall into detainees’ beds [and] food.”

Diet is inappropriate and inadequate not only at Passaic, but elsewhere within the detention system. In a summary of grievances dated January, 16, 2006, detainees at New Jersey’s Monmouth County Correctional Institution (M.C.C.I.) state: “The portion of the food is barely enough for an adult. The portion is very small and the quality is very bad. (Every day all three meals, ‘potatoes’, and a lot of cold cuts a week). The food also is cold most of the time, which is not the quality of standards in the DHS/ICE rulebook stating: ‘one cold meal and two hot meals a day.’ Most of the time, all three meals are very cold. We believe that the jail is “racketeering…” to force us to purchase their food from commissary, so the jail would be able to collect their 10% profit….” A specific dinner menu is described “ 8 to 10 oz. of rice with 20 to 30 red beans added and 4 tablespoons of wilted [lettuce.]”

In the early months of 2006, during the period when immigrant detainees were being exchanged for U.S. Marshall prisoners, extreme overcrowding was the order of the day. A February 28, 2006 letter to Blum from newly arrived detainee Luis del Orbe, states: “[When I arrived at] the Passaic County Jail… I was held in two separate holding cells at different [times] until I was issued a sleeping mat and placed in a dormitory at 9:35pm….At all times these cells are at nearly [three] times over their maximum capacity…. I was escorted to a basement dormitory….This dormitory has forty-eight sleeping bunks, yet eighty-nine individuals are expected to sleep there. Through the four days and three nights I was there, the number of individuals increased as more of the recently arrested [were] brought in. Those who are unable to sleep in a bed are given plastic mat containers, which are placed at any available space on the floor. Those who did not get these plastic mat containers must place their mats in any available floor space…; anyone needing to use the toilet facilities must…hurdle over those individuals sleeping on the floor.

"While sleeping on the floor… one of the individuals going through his drug … withdrawals vomited on me. Since there was no hot water available, I had to take a cold shower and be given new jail clothing.…Due to the poor ventilation…there was at all [times] a temperature above 90 degrees…. [C]onditions…were not made any better when the K-9 unit being handled by Corporal Mercado defecated on the floor of the dormitory, a space [it] just so [happened] is at face level where I was sleeping on the floor.” Blum describes how detainees were so overcrowded they could not all sit down at meals, and how some were forced to sleep on tables. She identifies leakage problems from bathrooms and in walls as causing further crowding of detainees.

Inappropriate mingling of inmates was frequent. On August 26, 2005 Xiomara Guity in a report asking “If you feel that you have been physically or sexually abused or your conditions of confinement have been abusive, please explain below” responds, “I had to go to court. To go and come back from court they put me in the back with the guys. It was about 6 guys to just myself. A guy that was getting sent to Barbados said: ‘Damn, I haven’t been this close to a girl in over 5 years.’ For the strip search, they do it [in] front of everybody, in front of inmates, officers. Couple weeks ago, a male sergeant saw the girl half-naked.” In an undated letter, Ruth Jean Baptiste writes: “Strip search is very [humiliating]. The fact is that we are from a different background, the strip search in public hurts a great deal.” And an anonymous 11/13/05 SOS scrawled on a napkin reads: “Transportation to court (men and women together) very frightening.”

Incoming and outgoing mail privileges, and telephone access are critical to insuring the civil rights of immigrant detainees. Blum shares a letter of June 17, 2005 from Lee Ngai addressed to her regarding his “mail which I haven’t received in two weeks. My family is in the process of backchecking my mail to see if it arrived at the jail. My problem [concerns] my legal case. My lawyer mailed in documents [stopping] my INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] appeal on 12/2/04. My family called to see if the documents arrived and they did.

My INS appeal was [stopped] and I have a receipt for it [but] I didn’t receive my 90 day review. My [family] was told that something was wrong with my file. My D.P.O. [Deporation Proceedings Officer] wasn’t notified of my immigration appeal [stoppage] and date….My lawyer called the court that he mailed the documents. They told [him] they forgot to date the documents….Two weeks later I found out the date they put on my documents was for May 26, 2005. After six months [are over] if the INS do not deport you, they are [supposed] to let you go. But they started my 6 months [all] over [again], and took [away] the six months I already did….Do you think it’s possible for me to get my six months back?”

In a report dated January 16, 2006 from the Monmouth County Detainees, “Our mail is coming in late a lot of times, or being returned for no reasons at all. It does not state why it was returned. There were several detainees, that when their families sent them a money order, but was returned to the sender because it had M.C.C.I. [Monmouth County Correctional Insitution] on the envelope….Also the prison is violating our rights by opening all our legal mail. The envelope states, “Legal Mail”, they would just ignore it and open it without our consent. All legal mail, by law, is to be opened in the presence of the addressed person...Most of the time the mail is either ripped or sliced in half before we even receive it.”

Detainees were unable to make outgoing phone calls either to families or to their lawyers—those few able to afford lawyers—for extended periods of time because the phones were frequently blocked, or the access numbers changed. But when the phones worked, detainees were obliged to purchase phone cards from the prison administration costing $10 for the first five minutes, and 89 cents for each minute thereafter. A Request to ICE dated August 15, 2005 signed by 28 detainees reads: “We would like to know why? Our phone service [is] blocked. We have to get in touch with our families, lawyers, business associates, etc…. Can you please get this block removed?”

A Guyanese detainee complains, “On August 1, 2005 the jail have changed their telephone company to a company called (Global Tel Link). Since the phone company has changed, all my attorneys’ phone numbers have been collect-call blocked by the jail contracted telephone company. Which is (illegal) to block legal phone calls to attorneys and legal representatives. The jail-contracted telephone company requires each individual [attorney] to set up an account before the detainee would be able to place a collect call to their legal representative.”

A press release from the Washington Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild dated January 25, 2007 quotes detainee Rafiu Abimbola: “I was detained for six years. The telephones frequently did not work and legal materials were unavailable or out of date. Because I was managing my case on my own, this was extremely hard for me. DHS did not attempt to fix these problems. When I complained to the jail, I never received a response and sometimes was punished for complaining. There are no consequences to the government for failing to obey its own standards.” Despite his on-going appeals, Mr. Abimbola was deported to Nigeria.

In a letter dated October 27, 2005, Heung Wah Wong, who was eventually transferred to Oakdale, Louisiana, asks Blum to address a letter on his behalf to the Fifth Circuit Court subject lined “Petition for Review of his detention that commenced in 1997 at F.D.C. Oakdale, Louisiana….His proposed draft reads, ‘Mr. Wong has on several occasions written and [requested] that ICE transfer him back to Louisiana, but was constantly rejected…. Mr. Wong’s detention at Passaic County Jail is very repressive. He’s confined 23 hours a day [in] lock-down and is unable at all to research his case in the law library because it is insufficient [time] and only allowed 1 1/2 hours twice a week to use the law library….Transferring Mr. Wong back to Oakdale, then he can be able to exhaust his administrative remedies….P.S. The only reason Mr. Wong is held at Passaic County Jail is because ICE has a contract lease with the jail [although] his case was in the southern district….’”

In web blog “The Business of Detention: cracking down on immigration and locking up profits,” Renne Feltz and Stokely Baksh describe conducting on site visits to twenty-three detention facilities. They write, “at 12 of the 23 facilities visited, the number of the OIG [Office of the Inspector General] was blocked. When [detainees] called the complaint line, they would get a voice prompt that “this is an invalid number,” or “a call to this number has been blocked by the telephone service provider….At Corrections Corporation of America’s Elizabeth Detention Facility, a privately owned and run jail in New Jersey, the list of consulate numbers was six years old. When auditors called 30 of the consulate numbers on the posted listing, they found that 9 were incorrect.”

Frequently inmates’ legitimate phone requests are met with punitive consequences. Egyptian detainee, Osama Metwalvy’s letter of December 14, 2005, states: “I just come to Passaic County Jail. I asked officer if I can make phone call to let my family know where I am. He said ‘No….’ I show him the Book for Rule [The Inmate Handbook]. He said ‘fuck the book. We here don’t use that.’” When Metwalvy appeals to the ombudsman, “he told me ‘fuck you, you mother fucker.’ I get so, so upset. He told me… “I will call the sergeant.’ [Later] the same ombudsman [jumped] on me and two [officers surrounded] me on the floor and he start beating and punishing me…Another C.O. came and spray me with O.C. [pepper spray] in my eyes…5 or 6 officer was beating me. After that they…put me in the box for 30 days. They told me ‘next time we will kill you!’”

A memorandum of December 14, 2005, and signed by 13 detainee witnesses corroborates Metwalvy’s account: “We…saw five officers pinning down and holding a detainee. They were punching and kicking him while he was handcuffed. We heard the inmate screaming that he was not resisting the officers and the officers still continued to hold him down and hit him. Sergeant Washington used pepper spray. After… they carried him away to another unit.” Luis Ortiz in a July 3, 2005 memo addressed to Deputy Warden Bendl states: “Please respect our human rights. All we ask from you is to be treated like human beings. Verbal abuse is not part of the ombudsman job. We are not creating any trouble for you. DHS placed us here, and they may want you to meet federal guidelines. Happy 4th of July!”

The NJCRDC Voices of the Disappeared states that, as a result of neglect during the several months of his detention, Fagge has become blind in one eye.

Civil rights of detainees were repeatedly violated. Often as a punitive measure, detainees were placed with the general jail population. Their right to special food, Halal, or Kosher, was repeatedly ignored. Often their dietary complaints resulted in their being placed in the hole. Two complaints by Sami Al-Shahin of August of 2005 allege profound disrespect for the Holy Quran. “In the past week we have had two shakedowns and in both…the officers have thrown the Holy Quran on the floor…. Officers have to understand the Rules of the Quran. They or anyone can’t touch [it]…. Maybe this is strange to them but this is our religion…. If this happens again we will have a complaint in the court. Some of us don’t have any criminal records so we don’t deserve this treatment. If we don’t get an answer we will hunger strike for death.” In a letter to Blum dated July 17, 2005, Raed Alanbuke writes: “I got my [prayer] beads back, but the rug I didn’t get. The Deputy Warden, Mr. Bendl said, ‘they are not allowing prayer rugs at this time.’”

Raed Alanbuke’s is an interesting case. Together with his brother he was held for over seven months although neither was guilty of any infraction. But they were sons of the UN Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq. The U.S. government detained them in an effort to put pressure on their father to defect. He refused. In the same letter, Alanbuke writes, “my case is not only about an innocent person in jail, no, it’s so much more than that, it’s about Iraq, about WMD, about the Bush administration intent to invade Iraq before 9/11/2001; it’s about forcing a high ranking [UN] Iraqi diplomat to defect, and when he said ‘no,’ they waged a war against him.”

It is not uncommon to observe that Muslims receive exceptional treatment at the hands of jail personnel. In his affidavit of December 12, 2005, Shayana Kadidal, esq. states: “Muslim male immigration detainees of South Asian or Arab descent were… systematically denied access to attorneys, phone calls, and bond. The…detainees were frequently detained for months after their final deportation orders for the purposes of criminal investigation. They were also repeatedly and unnecessarily strip-searched; one of our clients…despite being held in solitary confinement was strip- and cavity-searched before entering an immigration judge’s courtroom, and, absurdly, also strip- and cavity-searched upon leaving that same courtroom. Dogs were systematically used to intimidate Muslim detainees, especially at the Passaic…facility where many were held. Both the use of dogs and the systematic use of nudity as a humiliation tactic…mirrored…tactics used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo….”

Blum’s archive of Passaic County Jail abuses includes documentation of the use of dogs to terrorize detainees dating back to even before her active involvement there, including a case involving Mexican detainee Rosendo Lewis-Oropeza, in the words of the abusing officer himself. In an Incident Report by the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department dated May 10, 2004, Capt. J. De Franco, states: “I grabbed the front of the inmate’s shirt with both hands and pulled him to the ground. The inmate started kicking and swinging his arms. At this point the inmate attempted to get up when K-9 Officer Tangorra stepped in with his K-9. The K-9 bit the inmate on his left forearm.” However in the same report, the examining nurse, a Jocelyn Cruz, describes both a wound in the left arm, and another open wound on Mr. Lewis-Oropeza’s left thigh.

There are countless witness reports of inadequate or non-existent medical attention. Held since February 2, 2005, Abdelkareem Kawas of Jordan states in a letter dated August 7, 2005, addressed to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Assistant Attorney General: “In the Lutheran Medical Center I was [scheduled] to see a heart specialist…every two months; since I have been under ICE detention, I have not been able to see a heart doctor for the last six months.” He reports that the jail not only refused the heart medication his wife tried to send by mail, but when she tried delivering it to him in person, jail authorities would not accept it. Repeatedly he reports not being referred for a CAT scan despite on-going chest pain; and when in July a prison doctor finally took a chest X-ray which revealed a suspicious boil in his lungs, he still had been refused a CAT scan. He reports that he is the sole breadwinner of his family of five, and that being held without bail results in great economic hardship for a family that receives no other assistance.

In a Passaic County Jail Inmate Grievance Form dated September 27, 2005 and signed by multiple witnesses, Sami Al-Shahin makes the following complaint: “Last week Lucero Carino Rafael was having heart problems. He was...taken to the hospital [where] he stayed…four days…After coming back, every morning he was having heart pain and when he complained to the officers they would say he has to hold on and take about an hour before they take him down to the medical clinic. On 9/26/05 [he] was having heart pain again and we told the officer…[After] about a half hour he was taken down to the medical clinic and the nurse told him he was stressing, to jog around, that the pain would go away.

"On the same day me and another inmate spoke to deportation officer Diaz about the incident and Diaz replied that he should just go back to his country. On 9/27/05 around 9:30 A.M. Rafael Carino [collapsed] to the floor…. At first the main problem was getting the [officer’s] attention inside the booth. We kept calling him and he didn’t respond to us until a lot of inmates came to the bars and started to scream at the officer so he can listen. Then the officer called for the EMT, which came about 30 minutes after Rafael Carino had [collapsed]. Rafael Carino could of died in the time period it took to get the officer’s attention and to get the medical help. When inmates surrounded Rafael they thought he had died….This matter…is very important to us because our lives are involved.”

Another Inmate Grievance Form dated 9/23/05 by Hassan Fagge who was a diabetic and in 23 hour lock down reads: “Yesterday I don’t get insulin at night. I want to know why. I take 42 units of insulin every night at 6:30pm. I was suffering from last night 6:30pm to 7:27am this morning, 9/23/05. I am insulin dependent patient. My blood sugar level this morning at 7:42am was 465g., very high, and my breakfast is 4 slices of bread, juice and oatmeal which is 100% carbohydrate.” In a subsequent complaint, dated 10/10/05, Mr. Fagge includes a chart covering a 20-day period, showing morning, afternoon and night blood sugar readings. Normal readings range from 70–109, but from 9/21 through 10/10, his readings average 249. He writes: “If you look at this diagram my blood sugar level is very high all the time. The jail [is] unable to treat me. No control, no diet, no observation. Anywhere I wrote ‘NO,’ it means I don’t get treatment at [that] time of day.” Over the 20-day period the chart reads ‘NO’ 14 times. The NJCRDC Voices of the Disappeared states that, as a result of neglect during the several months of his detention, Fagge has become blind in one eye.

A detainee who goes by the name Amin states in a letter to Blum of December 5, 2005: “These people lock me…in the isolation since 10/2/05…23 hours [a day]….I still don’t get treatment. I’m frozen and I’m sick…sometime my blood pressure goes up to 200….I’m not a criminal…I’m going to stop taking any medication, insulin, and I will start hunger strike. Because nobody cares about my situation, starving me by giving me very small food….”

Detainee Ruth Jean Baptiste was seriously injured prior to her arrival at Passaic County Jail when she sustained a fall while washing floors where she was temporarily being held at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Says Blum, “She may have misaligned her spine and injured her coccyx, an injury that can be extremely painful. However there was evidently also an injury causing infection.” During her first 5 months in Passaic County Jail Jean Baptiste writes, “they had me in a punishment cage with no water, no bathroom.”

In an undated official complaint, she states: “I arrived in Passaic [County Jail] on July 28, 2004. Since I came I had more than enough reason to beg for deportation.” After fourteen months in detention she reports: “My foot bust all by itself. Swollen leg for over 14 months (right leg). The right hip cannot respond to hold my body. The good left hip is acting up now. The right foot is black, dripping water.” In another complaint she writes: “Every time I fill out a [grievance] INS refuses all treatments for me. And I get Tylenol for 2 weeks.” Still there after 14 months she writes, “the nurse in charge said there is nothing wrong with me. The only thing I have to do is get up and walk….How can I trust someone while my pain is unbearable.”

On November 1, 2005, sixteen months after her arrival at PCJ, at Blum’s instigation, a Dr. Waba agrees to see her. Her report continues: “Dr. Waba yell and scream at me. Very angry. He told me that he is going to take the crutches away from me, and I don’t need them because the X-Rays come out negative.” Blum adds that “upon release she had an operation where they told her they would have had to amputate had she waited much longer.”

Blum describes visiting a woman who was suffering from AIDS. “Her medications were never administered in a regular and timely manner—even though her condition required it. Despite official neglect, the other detainees had been so supportive of her that her spirits remained high. As her condition continued to deteriorate however, the jail administration scheduled her for release. But once released, she succumbed to a depression so severe—with no supportive community around her—that she retreated completely and communicated neither with her sister detainees nor with her lawyer who remained unable to reach her.”

According to The New York Times, the Organization of American States actually had to intervene asking the United States not to deport Andrea Mortlock, a terminally ill AIDS patient, to Jamaica because it claimed that deportation would violate her basic right to life. In the August 27, 2005 article, the Jamaican government is reported to have refused to issue travel documents on the ground that there was no medical care available to treat AIDS in Jamaica.


Bill to ban tactical semi-automatic assault weapons filed in Congress.

Common Dreams: West Virginia teachers win pay raise after 4-day walkout. The struggle continues.

Senate and House both introduce resolutions to override Aji Pai’s FCC to save net neutrality. One Senate vote short.

Common Dreams: Sanders introduces bill to end atrocity war in Yemen.