“Shut your black ass up. You don’t deserve nothing. You belong at the back of that cage,” said a warden at a West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, Texas, according to a first-of-its-kind report by nonprofit organization Freedom for Immigrants.
More than 800 hate-related incidents have been reported in just 34 immigration detention centers since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the study claims.
The California-based Freedom for Immigrants visits people held in such facilities and aims “to bring about a world without immigration detention.” The report, which documented the hate incidents based on race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, was first covered by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
A group of people at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas, reported that their food was thrown on the ground every time guards heard them speak in Spanish. At the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, one man reported that an officer told him to “go sit your black ass down and beat the Congo drums.” When he tried to report it, he was allegedly told by a higher-level official: “You have no rights. You are immigrants.”
Others in Sierra Blanca, Texas, said officers frequently called inmates “monkey,” “n-----,” “terrorist,” “motherf*cking Africans,” and “animals.” Elsewhere, derogatory terms like “baboon” or “King Kong” were allegedly deployed by guards.
“Through these anecdotes, we’re putting this system’s racism and hate on display so the public can witness the vile and unacceptable mistreatment of immigrants at the hands of the government,” Liz Martinez, director of advocacy for Freedom for Immigrants, which was first founded in 2012, told the Union-Tribune.
The report notes a rise in abuse since President Trump took office but also points out that “the Obama administration also perpetrated abuse motivated by hate and bias.”
“History has taught us about how governments around the world have used language as a tool of dehumanization in order to try to manipulate societies into believing that certain groups of people are inferior and deserving of abuse,” the report contends.
Men held at the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County, California—which is reportedly operated by a private prison company called GEO Group—said guards routinely called them called “f*cking blacks” and “Haitian trash.”
In response, GEO Group emphatically denied the report’s claims.
“We reject these baseless and outrageous allegations in the strongest terms,” the GEO Group told the Union-Tribune. “We have a zero tolerance policy for any and all forms of discrimination. Our 23,000 GEO employees around the world are proud of our record in managing facilities with high-quality services in safe, secure, and humane environments. Members of our team strive to treat all of those entrusted to our care with compassion, dignity, and respect.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack echoed that sentiment in an interview with the newspaper, noting that the agency also has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse against those in custody.
“Every allegation of misconduct is taken seriously,” Mack said. “ICE is committed to ensuring that those in our custody reside in safe, secure, and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.
Freedom for Immigrants’ report recommends passing a moratorium on immigration detention expansion and a funding cut for ICE. The group also suggests that state attorneys general be given the power and resources to monitor abuse in immigrant prisons and jails in their respective states.
The group argues that it hopes the report “will be the beginning of a conversation among advocates, legislators, and officials within this administration to prevent incidents of hate and bias in U.S. immigration detention.”
But, at this point, “the United States is clearly unable or unwilling to protect asylum seekers and other migrants from abuse and persecution motivated by hate,” the report concludes.