ICE officials in Mississippi are allegedly torturing and using excessive force against African detainees to coerce them into signing their own deportation orders.
The Guardian has obtained several statements from multiple sources alleging the federal agents are seeking to quickly deport as many people as possible.
“The abuse we are witnessing, especially right now against Black immigrants, isn’t new, but it is escalating. In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in ICE prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Freedom for Immigrants Executive Director Christina Fialho.
According to various accounts, detainees were beaten, handcuffed and pepper sprayed when they refused to sign their own orders of removal. On some occasions, their fingerprints were forced onto deportation papers. Those with incriminating testimonies about their mistreatment were allegedly deported so they wouldn’t testify and arrested by the Cameroonian military upon their arrival. Many deportees have not been heard from since they were displaced.
“The reality is that ICE operates in the shadows. They thrive in secrecy. We know that the U.S. government is deporting key witnesses in an effort to silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability,” Fialho said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and Freedom for Immigrants has filed a lawsuit against ICE officials, citing a range of abuse from various people.
In one account, a person identified as B.J. recalled being pepper sprayed and strangled “almost to the point of death.” A second person, a man identified as D.F., claimed he lost blood circulation after his neck was pressed into the floor, and in a third account, an unidentified man said he was lugged across the ground before officers forced his fingerprint onto a deportation order and broke his fingers.
ICE spokeswoman Sarah Loicano called the statements “sensationalist, unsubstantiated allegations” that should not have been made anonymously.