Thursday, September 29, 2022

Complaints Filed Against Detention Center by Migrant Detainee Stating It Was a ‘Living Hell’

While being held at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Baker County Detention Center, Guillermo De León Serrabi received beatings so bad he allegedly lost part of his hearing.

There are 16 civil rights organizations filing federal complaints against the treatment at the detention center in Macclenny, Florida, and De León Serrabi’s is just one of them. The groups mention conditions of physical assault, verbal abuse, harassment, and medical neglect. The federal complaint is calling for ICE to terminate the contract with Baker County. An investigation is also wanted, as well as the release of some of the detainees and a cease of scheduled deportations.

De Leon received a beating in December 2021 that caused his ear to bleed and impacted his hearing. Sofia Casini, director of visitation advocacy strategy at Freedom for Immigrants, said that De Leon was also put in solitary detention and could not contact his family or lawyer.

During an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, they found reported irregularities in the facilities, including the one in Baker County. It identified that the detainees had “difficulty resolving problems through the complaint and communication systems, including reports of verbal abuse by part of the staff.” It also recognized the “serious issues with the administrative and disciplinary segregation” at Baker.

In an email to Noticias Telemundo Investiga, an ICE spokesperson did not address any of the detainee’s allegations and said in the Annual Detention Inspection, “The facility received an acceptable rating.” The email also mentions that “ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.”

Eric Martinez, a 39-year-old Colombian migrant speaks out about his experience, saying, “I felt like dying.” He says he suffered from physical and verbal abuse at the center and is a part of the complaints against the center. The official complaint reads “Mr. Martinez felt like he was going to pass out” while an officer allegedly put his knee on his stomach. The officer also broke his nose while restraining Martinez. Martinez’s federal complaint states, “Remembering his time at Baker, it was a living hell.” Casani states that Martinez never got justice.

Other immigrant detainees have shared their experiences of racism against Latino and Black migrant detainees. “The people who work there demonstrate a culture of racism and discrimination against immigrants,” says Andrea Jacoski, the Americans for Justice Detention Program Director.

The center in Baker County has had these problems for 10 years, according to Casini. Baker County’s contract with ICE started 10 years ago.

NBC News