Rep. Ilhan Omar urged President Joe Biden’s administration in a letter Monday to end Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) contracts with prisons and jails.
The letter calls for Biden to issue an executive order to end ICE’s contracts with state, county and local jails due to the treatment of the detained immigrants and the facilities’ conditions. The Minnesota Democrat called the conditions of the facilities “systemic abuse.”
“Conditions in the municipal, county, and state jails and prisons contracting with ICE to detain immigrants mirror the systemic abuses in privately operated immigration detention facilities, including mental neglect, long term use of solitary confinement, sexual assault, and lack of access to legal counsel,” Omar wrote in the letter.
Omar also requested for an expansion of Biden’s “Executive Order on Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities” which phases out the federal government’s usage of privately owned prisons. Omar urged that the order be expanded to include privately run immigrant detention facilities.
We must truly sever the financial incentives causing the expansion of an unnecessary and abuse-ridden system of mass incarceration.
Proud to lead the effort to end ICE contracts with state, county, and local prisons. pic.twitter.com/wz63vSqS7G
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) March 15, 2021
ICE runs more than 200 immigrant detention facilities across the country, which are commonly operated through contracts between ICE and jails for the purpose of detaining immigrants, according to the letter.
Omar’s letter cited statistics examining the ownership of detention facilities by percent of detainee population. In 2018, 49% of ICE detention facilities were owned by county prisons, containing the largest percentage of immigration detainees, and another 14% of facilities were regulated by municipalities, according to the Brookings Institute.
Law enforcement disproportionately benefits financially from detaining immigrants versus incarcerating others with criminal sentences, according to the letter. This type of incarceration targets immigrants of color, according to Omar.
“As of October 2019, the per diem rate offered by ICE to sheriffs offices in Louisiana is approximately $65, while the average per diem rate paid to Louisiana sheriffs departments to jail people serving criminal sentences ranges from $10.95 to $24.39,” wrote Omar. (Related: Ilhan Omar Is Demanding A Freeze On Deportations)
Omar criticized the facilities’ failure to uphold basic health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a Morrow County jail in Ohio, 100% of all immigrants tested positive for COVID-19 due to a lack of proper equipment including the usage of expired thermometers and the facility’s failure to quarantine detainees, according to The Mansfield News Journal, the letter said.
The letter mentions increased abuses towards detained immigrants. In a Bristol County jail in Massachusetts, law enforcement illegally unleashed dogs and used pepper spray against the immigrants leading to two hospitalizations, MassLive reported.
“Indeed, several states, including California, New Jersey, and Maryland, have already taken steps to phase out both public and private detention. The federal government should follow suit,” Omar wrote.
A number of representatives co-signed the letter, including Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.
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