- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul criticized the Biden administration for information regarding the status of American prisoners in the Dominican Republic, in a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
- It’s likely some of these American prisoners are there under the country’s preventative detention system, which requires no charges or evidence of crime for imprisonment.
- The Biden administration doesn’t seem to know the total number of American prisoners in the Dominican Republic, according to McCaul’s letter.
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas criticized the Biden administration for seemingly failing to know the current number of American prisoners in the Dominican Republic, some of which are likely there under the country’s preventative detention system, in a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday and obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
A number of American citizens are currently imprisoned in the Dominican Republic, and it’s likely some of them are under the country’s “preventative detention” system, which requires no charges or evidence of crime for imprisonment, according to McCaul’s letter. McCaul expressed his frustration with the State Department’s failure to account for the number of American prisoners and demanded action on behalf of the detainee’s families, who are unaware of their status or condition. (RELATED: State Department Slaps Travel Advisory On Holiday Hotspot Over ‘High Level Of Criminality’)
“I am concerned that your Department does not have a complete accounting of the number of Americans that are currently imprisoned in the country, which could impact our government’s ability to offer assistance to Americans in need,” McCaul wrote. “You may also be aware of the serious criminal justice issues within the country as it relates to preventive detention, which can keep people locked in prison for years at a time and without charge… It’s an endemic issue clearly impacting Dominicans, and very likely, Americans as well.”
“Furthermore, families of some of the detained individuals have approached this committee and the State Department seeking assistance and guidance during this distressing period. It is important to me that these families get the answers they need from their government, and nothing less,” McCaul wrote.
Nearly 70% of total prisoners in the Dominican Republic are there under the country’s preventative detention system, according to the Dominican Justice Initiative. Dominican Republic prisons are currently at 164% capacity, and prisoners housed there suffer “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and lack of access to medical care,” according to Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, who wrote his own letter to Blinken in August that was provided to the DCNF.
“It is beyond time for leadership from Washington to address this crisis and ensure the Dominican government restores due process and respects the rule of law,” Lopez wrote. “Erosion of due process and a blatant disregard for the rule of law are the hallmarks of regimes that are sliding towards authoritarianism.”
Connie Mack, former Republican Florida Rep. and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, told the DCNF that he was stunned the State Department does not seem to know how many Americans are currently in Dominican Republic prisons, or whether they’re being held under preventative detention.
“It is shocking. Shocking,” Mack began. “I have had the opportunity to ask multiple officials about how many U.S. citizens – legal, permanent residents – are being held on preventative detention in the Dominican Republic, and you get different answers. And nobody is confident in the answer they give.”
“There should be somebody in our government that is 100% focused on people who are being detained in another country that are U.S. citizens,” Mack said. “And the fact that that’s not happening is really problematic.”
Mack told the DCNF he’s spoken to some of the prisoners’ family members who remain fearful of their loved one’s fate.
“You try to get your government to engage, and the State Department doesn’t even know how many and who [the prisoners] are that are being held on preventative detention,” Mack said. “There’s sadness, there’s hurt, there’s frustration. But they’re also strong people. So they’re committed to trying to find the answers and to shine the light.”
The State Department has been criticized for a number of foreign affair-related issues, including the botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 that left 13 U.S. soldiers dead. An after-action report of the operation found that the Biden administration had no idea who was in charge of the withdrawal.
Blinken testified in March that roughly 175 Americans are still in Afghanistan after being left behind during the military withdrawal, as reported by Fox News. The Taliban, who have now taken over Afghanistan, have killed and tortured hundreds of Afghan former military, security and government officials since the withdrawal.
McCaul gave Blinken a deadline of September 6 to provide information regarding the status of these American detainees, including which ones are currently under preventative detention and what degree of aid has been provided to them by the State Department.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.
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