U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers
ICE detention centers in Louisiana are again under scrutiny for negligent medical care Reuters / Norsk Telegrambyra

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed a complaint on behalf of a woman in Louisiana who says has for over a year been experiencing "severe abuse and life-threatening conditions in immigration detention" under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, including sexual assault.

The complaint requests the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to investigate the reported abuses, including violations of disability rights, and recommends that the individual, identified as A.R. for identity protection, be immediately released so that she can pursue her immigration case "from a safe and healthy environment."

"A.R. has been held in U.S. ICE detention for over a year in ICE's South Louisiana Processing Center. During this time, she has suffered sexual assault, physical attacks on her life from other people in this facility, and experienced negligent medical care and improper use of solitary confinement," the press release says.

The following statement of A.R. describes the problems faced at the detention center.: "I spoke to the psychologist, and they told me that they were going to give me therapy in this detention center. I have been here for a year and four months now. A lot of bad things have happened to me. People in the facility have touched my body sexually, beaten me, and immigration officials sent me to my home country where my life is in danger. I feel very bad psychologically. I'm traumatized by everything that happened to me."

"Here I am – a person who has mental health issues. I am bi-polar and suffer from anxiety. I have pre-diabetes and suffer from high blood pressure, and I have a cyst on my right shoulder. I want to be alive and released from here so I can be with my children and my grandson. Please help me, I should be released from here. I don't want to suffer anymore," she adds in her statement.

According to NIJC's cover letter, guards and ICE officials responsible for the care of people in custody in South Louisiana Processing Center have allowed "a climate to persist where sexual and physical assault is permitted."

"As a result, A.R. fears for her safety, and is suffering from rapidly worsening anxiety and mental strain resulting from her conditions in an unsafe ICE detention facility."

"ICE has failed to meet its own minimum standards of care for people held in the South Louisiana detention center. ICE is not safely housing individuals in this facility, and failing to address deficiencies that allow these offenses to continue without accountability. CRCL should investigate this complaint and take prompt action to ensure accountability and A.R.'s release so that she does not face further abuse and deterioration of her physical and mental health."

The lawsuit was filed a few days after migrant advocates in Louisiana announced that a 33-year-old man from Senegal who died while under ICE custody in a Louisiana detention center in February 2023 had been sick for months, with his condition deteriorating at the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield.

That facility has for years been the subject of complaints about inadequate medical care, filthy accommodations and mistreatment of detainees, according to organizations cited in an article by NBC News.

Mich González, the associate director of the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Immigrant Justice Project, said that "horrific things" were happening on this other detention center, according to the outlet.

"People with open wounds not getting the treatment that they need. People on crutches being told that they don't have a humanitarian interest in being released even though they're not a danger to anyone and they have people waiting for them at home. People detained for upwards of a year unnecessarily."

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