Immigrant rights organizations deliver letter to ICE and launch billboard throughout Florida to raise awareness about human rights violations at Baker County Detention Center
MIAMI – Today, immigrant rights organizations launched a mobile billboard campaign that highlights the abuses occurring at the Baker County Detention Center (Baker). The billboard, showcasing quotes from immigrants detained at Baker, stopped in Orlando and Miami where immigrant rights advocates of the Shut Down Baker Coalition held press conferences, urging for the closure of the facility in Macclenny, Florida. The detention center is operated by the Baker County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) through a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The organizations also delivered a letter to the ICE field office in Miami, outlining systemic patterns of abuse and inhumane conditions at Baker. The letter also shares a story of an individual who was denied blood pressure medication without justification and who later collapsed, suffered injuries, required emergency hospitalization and now uses a wheelchair.
Baker has been the center of multiple federal complaints, highlighting a pattern of extreme medical neglect, racist harassment, retaliation, voyeurism, impediments to accessing legal counsel, solitary confinement abuse and other human rights violations.
“Baker has not complied with federal standards regarding solitary confinement. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report noted that ‘inappropriate segregation practices at three facilities [including Baker] infringed detainee rights’ and that conditions violated national detention standards. Baker staff currently face serious allegations of using solitary confinement in punitive and retaliatory ways, sometimes for months at a time. The United Nations has condemned prolonged solitary confinement as tantamount to torture. No one should be subjected to these degrading abuses in Florida or anywhere else,” said Felix Montañez, senior staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project in Miami.
“For too long, ICE and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office have subjected immigrants at Baker to horrific abuses and conditions, with little to no transparency and it's time to hold them accountable,” said Silvana Caldera, policy strategist at the ACLU of Florida. “These government agencies have no right to strip people of their dignity and humanity. The federal government has confirmed patterns of inhumane conditions and federal violations and has yet to take action. It’s time for ICE to permanently end its relationship with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.”
The mobile billboard amplified the voices of women at Baker who filed a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) complaint last year, citing a pervasive pattern of voyeurism by employees charged with their care at the detention center. In February 2023, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed these accounts of voyeurism and abuse at Baker.
“It is time for the U.S. government to apply the standards it requires of international partners to its immigration system. How can this country pretend to be a beacon of human rights when it cannot stop horrendous abuses under its branch of the Federal government? Enough is enough. It is hard to believe that continuing violations of their rules and regulations are mere incompetence. After repeated reports and failed inspections, it amounts to sheer cruelty,” stated Isabel Ruano, campaign organizer with Immigrant Action Alliance.
"Our officials must take responsibility and pressure this administration to shut down Baker now,” said Maria Bilbao, campaigns coordinator for the American Friend Service Committee of Florida. “While families deal with housing, insurance, health, and education problems, the government chooses these corporations that enrich themselves by keeping immigrants detained in detention centers like Baker. They throw away money that could be redirected to programs that benefit us all. It is time to replace this country's abusive and punitive immigration detention system, and this administration can and should make changes. It's time to close Baker for good, and now."
According to the Florida Detention Database, there have already been over 185 complaints filed against Baker. Medical neglect, unsanitary conditions and harassment were among the top reports issued in over 60 percent of all complaints from the facility. The letter delivered to ICE can be found here.