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Nearly a dozen immigrants kept in solitary confinement for more than two months: report

Nearly a dozen immigrants kept in solitary confinement for more than two months: report
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Nearly a dozen immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were held in solitary confinement for more than two months, according to a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General draft report obtained by BuzzFeed News

The report, which documented findings from a February inspection of the Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico, Calif., indicated that officials used solitary confinement as a long-term “solution” for immigrants in “protective custody,” or those who need special supervision or housing due to risks to their safety.

BuzzFeed also reported that in addition to 11 immigrants who had been placed in solitary confinement for more than 60 days, two others were kept isolated for more than 300 days. 

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While ICE detainees can request to be put into protective custody, the agency also puts individuals in “administrative segregation” if they pose a threat to the lives of other immigrants or themselves. 

“During our inspection, we identified serious violations regarding the administrative segregation of detainees at [Imperial Regional Detention Facility],” the inspectors state, according to BuzzFeed. “Specifically, IRDF was using administrative segregation as a long-term solution for detainees in protective custody and overly restricted detainees by not offering privileges similar to those offered to detainees in general housing units.”

The inspectors also reportedly wrote that “our examination of segregation records showed the facility inaccurately reported to ICE that detainees were receiving recreation time when, in fact, they were not.” 

“Moreover, detainees in administrative segregation were restricted to their individual cells for approximately 22 to 23 hours a day without access to the same group activities or opportunities as those in the general population,” the draft report added. 

BuzzFeed also noted that the inspectors found that detainees received “inadequate medical checks.”

In a statement to The Hill the  DHS inspector general’s office said "OIG declines to comment on our work before it is finalized and published." 

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Greg Archambeault, a lead ICE official in the region, told BuzzFeed in response to the draft report that immigrants had been appropriately classified at the Calexico detention center. 

“We are firmly committed to prioritizing the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in our care and custody,” he told the news outlet. “We have reviewed OIGs recommendations and attribute meeting compliance standards regarding detainee classification at IRDF to the dedication of the officers at the facility." 

“We concur with the OIGs additional recommendations and have taken corrective action where appropriate to ensure our continued compliance with PBNDS [Performance Based National Detention Standards],” Archambeault added. 

The inspector general’s draft report comes amid increased scrutiny and concern on the conditions of ICE detention facilities, especially regarding their level of safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, the House Oversight Committee said in a report that “immigrants in detention centers operated by for-profit contractors are facing negative health outcomes and even death as a result of inadequate medical care, poor conditions, understaffing, and delayed emergency care” and, “at times, facility staff have falsified records to cover up these problems.” 

That same month, the House Homeland Security Committee said that based on a yearlong review of facilities, detention centers had inadequate oversight mechanisms and medical treatment, with the committee concluding that “ICE prioritizes obtaining bed space over the wellbeing of detainees."

Updated Dec. 18, 1:06 p.m.