DHS Inspectors Find Standards Violations At Immigrant Facility
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Inspectors for the Department of Homeland Security examined an immigration facility in Southern California and they say they found serious violations of detention standards. Farida Jhabvala Romero of KQED begins this report with a sign of just how troubling the conditions were.
FARIDA JHABVALA ROMERO, BYLINE: There have been at least seven suicide attempts in less than a year at the privately-run Adelanto immigrant processing facility. And deaths - a 32-year-old man killed himself by hanging in 2017, and three detained people died in part because of medical neglect since 2015. That's all according to the inspectors report. During an unannounced visit, inspectors found health and safety violations, including a disabled man who was confined to his wheelchair for nine days and nights, nooses made out of bed sheets in detainee cells that could aid suicides and people waiting weeks or months to see a doctor.
MARIO: The medical attention is very low standard.
ROMERO: Mario is 31. He spent six months at Adelanto and was just released this summer. We're not using his last name because he fears it could hurt his asylum case.
MARIO: It just came to the point where we just were not even putting in medical requests because we said, what for?
ROMERO: A spokesperson for the California attorney general says they'll consider the federal inspectors' findings as they pursue their own first ever investigation of immigration facilities. California gained authority to inspect federal detention centers in the state holding nearly 5,000 detainees from a 2017 law authored by state Senator Ricardo Lara.
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RICARDO LARA: The federal government's own report is validating our concern.
ROMERO: The Trump administration has sued to overturn that law in court. But Lara says the new report gives legal ammunition to California.
LARA: It makes it much more important for California to have a bigger role in investigating what is really happening in the detention center.
ROMERO: But the California attorney general's review is not expected until March of next year. Luis Suarez with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice is concerned about detainees in Adelanto now.
LUIS SUAREZ: The lives of these people are pretty much at risk.
ROMERO: Suarez helps detainees file grievances with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
SUAREZ: The grievances pretty much go nowhere.
ROMERO: That's what a report from Homeland Security, itself, found earlier this year. ICE does not adequately follow up on problems or hold facilities accountable. Some deficiencies remain, quote, "unaddressed for years." Immigrant rights groups and former detainees say conditions are poor at many other detention centers throughout the country.
LUNA GUZMAN: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMERO: Guatemalan Luna Guzman says health access was terrible at the Otay Mesa detention facility in California, where she spent eight months locked up as she sought asylum in the U.S. Her claim was rejected, and she was deported. I met her in Tijuana, Mexico.
GUZMAN: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMERO: "It took days to see a doctor for a severe ear infection," she says. In response to the violations at Adelanto, both ICE and the GEO Group, the private company that operates the facility, say they take the federal inspectors findings seriously and they're working to correct them.
For NPR News, I'm Farida Jhabvala Romero in San Francisco.
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