“Since the end of March through the beginning of July, guards at detention centers across the country deployed force—pepper spray, pepper balls, pepper spray grenades—in incidents involving more than 10 immigrants at a time on a dozen occasions, according to a review of internal reports,” Aleaziz reported. “In total, more than 600 detainees have been subjected to these group uses of force.”
He writes that at the notorious ICE prison in Adelanto, California, guards shot pepper spray and pepper balls at over 150 detained people following one protest, sending several to the hospital and leaving Alejandro Ramirez blinded in one eye for three days. “One of the pepper balls used struck a table, Ramirez said, and a broken piece cut his eye,” the report said. In another instance, “detention guards pepper-sprayed underneath a door after some detainees protested being isolated due to potential COVID-19 exposure, according to an internal report.”
Adelanto, like many other ICE prisons, is privately operated. During testimony to Congress last month, CoreCivic and LaSalle Corrections executives claimed they had no knowledge of the use of violent force against people jailed at their facilities. When confronted by New York Rep. Kathleen Rice with the fact that his company’s spokesperson had actually confirmed the use of pepper spray against detainees at one New Mexico facility, the CoreCivic executive claimed he’d “misunderstood” initial questioning, and conceded the use of force there, Mother Jones reported at the time.
Meanwhile, a third executive from the private prison company that runs Adelanto massively downplayed the truth: “GEO Group CEO George Zoley said he was aware of one incident in California,” Mother Jones reported at the time. There have been at least five.
“ICE officials acknowledged the recent uptick,” Aleaziz reported, “which they attributed to disruptive detainees.” So pleading for their lives amid a pandemic is now being labeled “disruptive” by this agency, which has every power and ability to release larger numbers of people, including children and their parents detained at migrant family jails, but won’t. Nearly two weeks after a federal judge’s deadline to release kids from these facilities, they remain jailed because ICE won’t release them with their families together.
“We are numbers to them,” Ramirez said in Aleaziz’s report. “We are not people. They are not going to listen to us. They are going to follow their rules. There is nothing we can do.”