President Obama Covers Up Solitary Confinement of Immigrant Children
A brazen lie lingers deep within the details President Barack Obama’s op-ed in the Washington Post today, in which he announces that he is banning the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders incarcerated in federal prisons.
In his article, President Obama cites to the Department of Justice’s “Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing”, stating that he is “adopting its recommendations to reform the federal prison system.”
In the report, there is an entire section on the immigration detention system for “comparison purposes” which makes clear that its recommendations would only cover “restrictive housing within the criminal justice system.”
The report describes the various standards applied for the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention facilities, including the Performance Based national Detention Standards (PBNDS).
Here’s the lie:
PBNDS 2011 currently applies to facilities housing approximately 66% of ICE’s ADP [Adult Detained Population], excluding family residential facilities, which do not utilize segregated housing. All dedicated facilities (SPCs, CDFs, and dedicated IGSAs) are covered by PBNDS 2011. (emphasis added)
Family residential facilities utilize–and often require–segregated housing, according to the Department of Justice; ICE’s own family residential standards; a whistleblower; and mothers and children who experienced being held in solitary confinement first hand.
Family residential facilities are jails located in Texas and Pennsylvania that detain mothers and their children seeking asylum from the war-torn countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Obama has been clear from day one (July of 2014) that the purpose of detaining mothers and children was to deport them back home to send a message to future mothers and children that they will also be detained and deported if they seek asylum in the United States. Most of those children detained are under 10 years of age, and the largest percentage of children are 5 years old and younger. Our youngest client was 1 year old when he was detained in the now-closed Artesia Detention Center.
In a 2015 memorandum, the Department of Justice endorsed the use of solitary confinement of children (even toddlers) as punishment for alleged offenses committed by their mothers while detained. The relevant excerpt from the memo is below:
The ICE disciplinary standards state that their purpose is to “provide a safe and orderly living environment” at ICE family residential facilities, and to “manage discipline and behavioral problems in a manner that ensures the safety and welfare of staff, residents, and visitors.” Exhibit O at 1. “Insurrection” is considered a major offense at ICE family residential facilities, and under the standards requires separation from the general population. Id. at 16-17. Medical observation rooms may be used to facilitate this separation. See Antkowiak Decl. ¶ 13. The standards provide guidance for the investigation of such incidents and the appropriate responses, and residents are provided with notice of prohibited acts, and the processes that the facility uses to manage and respond to rules violations through the resident handbook. Id. at 19. These ICE standards, which applied to Plaintiffs’ activities of protesting and engaging in a hunger strike, reflect reasonable determinations by ICE that necessarily balance any right the resident may have to protest or participate in a hunger strike against the health and safety of the resident participating in the strike, and the health and safety of others in the facility including that resident’s children. To the extent that Plaintiffs are challenging the Government’s actions in applying these standards to their alleged activities, Plaintiffs’ challenges must fail because these standards are reasonably related to the interests of order, safety, and security, at ICE family residential facilities. (emphasis added)
Indeed, Section 3.1 of ICE’s family residential standards, Discipline and Behavior Management, require the use of solitary confinement of children with their mothers when the mother is found to have committed any of the 19 enumerated “Major Offenses”, which include engaging in a protest the conditions of detention:
MAJOR OFFENSES: Suspicion of any of the following offenses reauires (sic) immediate notification of ICE and separation form (sic) the general population
Similarly, ICE is permitted to place a family unit in an “orientation and counseling unit” for the sole purpose of “assisting residents to properly conform to facility rules and to ensure the safe and orderly operation of the facility.”
The punitive use of solitary confinement against young children and their mothers was also laid out in great detail by Dr. Olivia Lopez, a whistleblower who previously worked as a licensed social worker at the Karnes Children jail.
Why did President Obama’s DOJ lie when it falsely stated that Family Residential Facilities do not utilize segregated housing? Perhaps to cover-up its own criminal actions torturing children to enable its continued and illegal jailing of immigrant children and their mothers seeking asylum and other relief under United States law.