GLADES COUNTY, Fl -- Nine immigrant rights groups submitted a multi-individual federal civil rights complaint against the Glades County Detention Center today on behalf of hundreds of people whose lives are being recklessly endangered at this county-run facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint, filed with the Office of the Inspector General and the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at DHS, demands investigation and immediate oversight to prevent additional deaths and health consequences. The groups also demand that ICE terminate its contract with Glades County and immediately release all people detained at the facility.
ICE’s widespread abuse and intentional disregard for the safety and well being of people in its custody has been well-documented at Glades since the beginning of the pandemic. In the complaint, 25 testimonies of currently and formerly detained individuals detail the day-to-day atrocities happening inside the facility, as well as how ICE’s complete lack of oversight allows conditions to continue to deteriorate. This includes: patterns of medical abuse; lack of soap, hygiene products, sanitation, and PPE; continued transfers between facilities without quarantine; ICE’s failures to follow court orders to release individuals from Glades; retaliation for peaceful protest and public reporting; use of toxic chemical spray in enclosed spaces; hospitalizations and death.
Jessica Schneider, Director of the Detention Program at Americans for Immigrant Justice, said: “For years, AI Justice has received countless complaints from detained individuals regarding the inadequate medical care at the Glades County Jail. For months, AI Justice and others have been sounding the alarm bells about the dangerous inadequate medical care and horrific conditions at Glades. Even during a deadly pandemic, the Glades County Jail has acted with complete disregard for the welfare of those in their care. Considering the well-documented history of systemic medical neglect and abuse even before the onset of the pandemic we are calling on ICE to urgently cancel its contract with Glades. We are deeply concerned that if immediate action is not taken to ameliorate this situation that many more individuals will continue to contract COVID-19, leading to severe illness and potential death.”
Sofia Casini, the Director of Visitation Advocacy Strategies at Freedom for Immigrants, said: “Freedom for Immigrants and our partners have been documenting life-threatening medical malpractice at Glades, including the intentional denial of treatment, for years. This abuse has only escalated during the pandemic with the illegal use of toxic chemicals, reported disappearances of men and women, and possibly unaccounted for fatalities.
Lorena Del Pilar Bonilla MD, Cofounder of the Doctors for Camp Closure Florida Chapter, said: “People held in detention at Glades County Detention Center are suffering from the constant threat of harm with this highly contagious virus. They are afraid of bodily harm and I strongly fear for their overall health. Their testimonials about solitary confinement, under treatment, denial of medications or lack of medical referrals needs to be investigated. Each day they remain locked up in confined spaces is a risk of them getting ill with COVID19 and spreading it to the nearby community.”
Cynthia Garcia, National Campaign Manager for Community Protection at United We Dream, said: “Time and time again we've worked to expose the dangerous human rights violations happening inside the Glades ICE detention center. We continue to see the lengths ICE will go to torture and abuse immigrants. No one deserves to be detained and we’re calling on the Biden administration to shut down this and all ICE detention centers and ensure not one more person goes through this mistreatment.”
Rebecca Talbot, Glades Lead at Immigrant Action Alliance, said: "The powerful eyewitness accounts in this complaint echo hundreds of similar testimonies of dangerous conditions at Glades that Immigrant Action Alliance and our partners have heard since the start of the pandemic. Those detained at Glades are afraid every day that they will die from Covid-19 due to the negligence of ICE and the Glades County Sheriff's Office. It is long past time to release them and shut this facility down forever."
Andrea Ruiz-Sorrentini, Immigrant Detention Outreach Paralegal at Southern Poverty Law Center, said: “ICE detention is designed to dehumanize Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. The unconscionable abuses happening at Glades are inherent to a system that was created to deprive people of their civil and human rights, which is why we must free every last person subjected to immigrant detention."
Silvana Caldera, immigrants’ rights policy strategist of ACLU of Florida, said: “Immigration detention is cruel and unnecessary, and especially during the covid-19 pandemic, poses the risk of death for those detained in centers like Glades. Our government is spending millions of dollars to lock up people whose detentions serve no purpose. The testimonies in this complaint illustrate the civil rights and civil liberties violations happening in Florida and across the country. It is time to put an end to the ICE detention machine."
These violations should be investigated, all people must be released and the facility should be shut down. Advocates are demanding a full investigation into ICE Miami Field Office and Glades County Sheriff’s Office’s reckless endangerment of people’s lives, as well as an inquiry into steps ICE headquarters is taking to investigate compliance and consider facility closure given the ample body of evidence already provided against the facility.
Read the full complaint here.