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Seven Women File Complaint Alleging Abuse, Medical Neglect at Florida ICE Detention Center
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=60653"><span class="small">Carli Teproff, Miami Herald</span></a>   
Saturday, 28 August 2021 08:17

Teproff writes: "Seven women being held at a Florida immigration detention facility filed a federal complaint Thursday detailing what advocates call 'an appalling pattern of abuses' - including medical neglect, sexual misconduct and Covid-19 protocol violations."

An immigrant detention center. (photo: ABC)
An immigrant detention center. (photo: ABC)

Seven Women File Complaint Alleging Abuse, Medical Neglect at Florida ICE Detention Center

By Carli Teproff, Miami Herald

28 August 21


even women being held at a Florida immigration detention facility filed a federal complaint Thursday detailing what advocates call “an appalling pattern of abuses” — including medical neglect, sexual misconduct and Covid-19 protocol violations.

The 19-page document comes just six months after a group of 25 immigrants filed a complaint for similar concerns at the Glades County Detention Center just west of Lake Okeechobee, which is run by the Glades County Sheriff’s Office.

“Women at Glades — who are mothers, sisters, daughters, and valued community members — are subject to these egregious and nauseating abuses daily,” said Sofia Casini, director for visitation advocacy strategies with Freedom for Immigrants. “Nearly 30 complaints have been filed to address abuses at Glades since the onset of the pandemic alone, yet the abuses continue. Enough!”

The complaint was sent to the Office of the Inspector General and the the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security Thursday. It was submitted with the assistance of Americans for Immigrant Justice, Immigrant Action Alliance, Freedom for Immigrants and 20 other local and national groups.

The hope: For anyone being held at the detention center to be immediately released.

“It’s clear these abuses are endemic, and until everyone is released and Glades is closed for good, immigrants will continue to be mistreated in ways that undermine our shared values of fairness, dignity, and human rights,” Casini said. “It’s past time for releases and closure.”

A spokesman for ICE said that in February 2021, Glades County underwent their Annual Detention Inspection “to ensure compliance with National Detention Standards.”

“The facility received an acceptable rating,” he said.

The conditions at Glades

For Petrona Lopez, one of the women named in the complaint, being in Glades has been tough. She said in the complaint that she was transferred there for physical therapy for her leg, but hasn’t received any treatment in the three months she has been there.

“If they aren’t going to treat us [for our medical issues], we want to be free,” said Lopez. “We have our families; we aren’t alone. I have my older children who can help me access care.”

Some of the issues include unannounced entries by male guards into their living area, voyeurism by the guards who watch the women shower, medical neglect and a psychiatrist using his authority “to sexually harass immigrant women at the facility.”

Another issue described in the complaint: Regular exposure to a toxic, industrial-grade disinfectant spray.

“Last night, they were spraying a chemical, and it’s not fair,” said one woman, who chose to remain anonymous, in the complaint. “Yesterday, we were coughing a lot because we couldn’t take the vapor and smell of the chemical.”

Lunise Clerveaux, who was detained for several months at Glades and is named in the complaint, said the chemical “turns the air gray” and lingers. Clerveaux said when it was sprayed, she would hide under her bed sheet until the cloud disappeared, according to the complaint.

In the complaint, the woman detailed poor living conditions including rotten food, yellow drinking water that forces them to drink from the sinks, pest infestations, and lack of access to toilet paper. They say COVID-19 protocols are ignored, causing the virus to spread.

ICE data shows that there have been 195 COVID cases since the pandemic began and one death.

They also say that the women are exposed to racial slurs and degrading comments from guards daily.

“These powerful women have been subjected to unspeakable harassment and abuse at the hands of ICE and Glades staff,” said Andrea Ruiz-Sorrentini, outreach paralegal with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a news release. “Swift action must be taken to end immigration detention and those detained by ICE must be safely released.”

Speaking out

Five of the seven women in the suit used their names and two joined anonymously.

“The seven women currently in detention at Glades are showing immense courage by speaking out about horrific conditions they’ve been subjected to while in detention,” said Maria Bilbao, Florida deportation defense organizer with United We Dream. “Unfortunately, these conditions are widespread, and so beyond those in detention at Glades, all immigrants in detention centers across the country must be released and spared from conditions like this.”

Last month, eight members of Congress led by Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called for the Department of Homeland Security to terminate its detention contract with Glades County and close the facility. your social media marketing partner