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Alice Speri @alicesperi
, 25 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
1. Two years ago, long before #metoo became a national conversation, I started digging into reports of sexual abuse in immigration detention. This week, we revealed the staggering pattern of that abuse based on 1,224 reports.
2. Christina Fialho and her team @MigrantFreedom had been working hard to expose abuse in detention, and independently documented 27 cases, including that of a woman raped by a detention facility official.…
3. Together we FOIA'd ICE, as well as the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and the Office of Inspector General. ICE & CRCL never replied. We also filed state public records requests with local law enforcement, to see how many calls they got from detention centers.
4. ICE's FOIA backlog is infamous, but as the story showed, that's well in line with their lack of transparency overall. They never replied to our request.…
5. The OIG however, did reply — and inexplicably, they did so twice, with each reply yielding to wildly different sets of records. Even the FOIA office couldn't quite tell us why.
6. A note here. A FOIA request, in theory, should function like a science experiment. No matter who files it, or how many times it is filed, the same request should yield the same results. That it didn't, is testimony to how arbitrary the process can be.
7. But for all the backlogs and arbitrariness, FOIA requests remain a uniquely powerful tool to hold government to account. The OIG's first response led to more than 33,000 complaints of a wide range of abuses in immigration detention. Of those, the OIG investigated 247.
8. A good summary of that immigrant detention abuse data from @MigrantFreedom
9. Then finally, nearly two years after our request, the OIG office sent us a single PDF containing more than 1,200 complaints of sexual abuse in immigration detention. It was 60 pages of this:
10. Here's what those complaints looked like up close.
11. The Intercept's incredible research team — @LynnDombek @MoizSyed @ghostOfAkilism @talya_cooper @mahaxahmed & @jlosc9 — spent countless hours combing through each narrative, and tagging each complaint. Stories like these wouldn't be possible without the work of so many people.
12. Our analysis of the data revealed a devastating fact: 59 percent of the alleged perpetrators were ICE staff or contractors. And in many cases, more officers witnessed the abuse and did nothing.
13. After repeated followup, the OIG FOIA office also gave us data for 43 investigations that officials said they had forgotten to include when they released the 1,224 complaints. They found that only three were "substantiated."
14. Shortly before publication, ICE sent us their own data. ICE is actually required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act to publish data of sexual abuse in detention annually. But they have never done that — so we published it for them.…
15. According to the data they shared with us, starting in 2016, ICE found that its own staff and contractors were the alleged perpetrators in a quarter of complaints — significantly less than the 59 percent we found, but a pretty staggering statistic nonetheless.
16. In 2016, I visited the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California — a town with 30,000 residents and 10,000 more people who are detained in prisons and a large immigration detention center there.
17. At the center, flyers on the wall called on detainees to "break the silence" on sexual abuse and mailboxes were set up for them to file grievances anonymously.
18. In practice, however, reporting assault in immigration detention is incredibly difficult.
19. Gretta Soto Moreno is a trans woman who was detained in Arizona and California, and filed dozens of complaints about the constant abuse she was subjected to. “Grievances only go to the next officer,” she said, “and they take care of each other.”
20. The reports obtained by The Intercept suggest that individuals who spoke up were ridiculed, accused of lying, or blamed for instigating their abusers. Multiple detainees reported being locked in their cells, denied food, or treated with hostility after they filed grievances.
21. A detainee in Louisiana said she had asked staff for a grievance form, “which was given to her, but the staff refused to provide a pen or pencil to write it.”
22. Our investigation tells many of these stories. We read hundreds more. And there are countless more out there that we didn't get, or that were never filed.
23. Last week, talking about the caravan of asylum seekers making its way through Mexico, Trump basically called immigrants rapists (again). There is — of course — no basis to that claim.…
24. But here's what we do know: sexual assault, including rape, is happening right here in the United States, at staggering rates, to women, men, and children whose safety is the responsibility of the agency that is detaining them.
25. Their stories, told in formal complaints filed to an uncompassionate and confusing bureaucracy, almost never yield justice or see the light of day. We tried to tell just a few of them.
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