You are browsing the archive for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Gitmo Detainee Death Mystery Deepens with News of Drug Overdose

11:37 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

Charlie Savage at the New York Times reports that “several people briefed on a Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry” into the death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, who was found unresponsive in his cell last September, have revealed that the prisoner “died from an overdose of psychiatric medication.”

As Savage notes, the military autopsy has reportedly declared Latif died a suicide. Accordingly, investigators are said to be following up a scenario wherein the Yemeni detainee, recently moved from the psychiatric ward to a disciplinary solitary unit at Camp 5, hoarded medications somehow, and used them to overdose last September 8.

To date, we do not know what kinds of medications were involved, except they were “psychiatric” in nature. Nor do we know how many different medications were supposedly involved. While the Times article implies investigators are looking at pills, as explained below, Latif also received forcible injections of drugs at various times.

Jason Leopold broke the story labeling Latif’s death a suicide in a November 26 article at Truthout. The autopsy report itself has not been publicly released, and has been the subject of wrangling between U.S. and Yemen authorities, a dispute that has left the former Guantanamo’s body in limbo (allegedly frozen) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Cause of Death vs. Manner of Death

Read the rest of this entry →

UK/US Asylum Seekers Find Death, Abuse, and Criminal Indifference

8:35 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Adapted from an article originally posted in The Public Record

An article in the March 14 UK Observer reports that United Kingdom’s asylum immigration system is systematically denying claims of torture by asylum applicants, despite ample medical evidence by applicants of torture in their home countries. Since 2001, many asylum applicants have been sent to prison, with murderers and rapists, despite the fact they have never broken any law, making Britain the only European Union country to have such a practice.

Sonya Sceats, a spokeswoman for one charity that carries out medical assessments for the government, told the Observer: "It’s very clear there is a systemic and increasing problem here. The corollary of their dismissal of independent medical evidence is that the protection [asylum] claim is invariably rejected and this means a survivor of torture is at risk of being returned to further torture or at risk of detention."

The allegations come in the wake of strong criticism last week of the UK Border Agency, which was condemned for failing to investigate claims of mistreatment by failed asylum seekers in abuse allegations up to July 2008. Ministers now plan to review the use of force against asylum seekers by British security guards after a Border Agency report on abuse conceded that serious injuries were suffered by detainees who had been handcuffed or physically restrained.

Such claims of mistreatment by asylum applicants, imprisoned by the British government, despite proof of torture, include a Zimbabwean woman, currently on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood detention center, Bedfordshire, who had been raped and beaten in Zimbabwe, and still bears copious scars of the multiple stabbings on both arms. She also alleges racist abuse by the British prison guards. A Congolese woman, who also had suffered multiple rapes and beatings in her home country, "claimed to have suffered "medical abuse" and had anxiety attacks after witnessing a naked woman dragged from her room in Yarl’s Wood by private security guards, claims robustly denied by the Home Office."

"Everybody was shocked," she said. "She had no clothes on and she was photographed. I still get flashbacks."

Denied Asylum, A Family Plunges to Their Deaths

The story follows a UK Guardian report from last week, when three Russian nationals, Serguei Serykh, 43, his wife Tatiana and Mr. Serykh’s adult stepson, leaped to their deaths from a the fifteenth floor of a Glascow apartment building. A BBC story on March 13 said the family had previously been granted political asylum in Canada, but had left after an some kind of dispute with authorities there. They had recently been denied an application for asylum in the UK, and on the day they died had received a letter that they would lose their apartment, although no order for removal had yet been filed. Extrapolating from a Globe and Mail report on March 10, it appears possible that Mr. Serykh suffered from a serious mental illness.

The suicides of these desperate individuals have brought organized protests in Scotland, with marchers calling for an end to the "enforced removal of refugee families," according to the BBC report. A later article by the UK Guardian quotes the director of the Glasgow charity Positive Action in Housing, Robina Qureshi, as saying the family’s death could not be attributed to psychological issues, but UK asylum policy. "The Serykhs were considered credible in Canada," Qureshi said. "Shouldn’t that be good enough for us? They were going to be out on the street, destitute. What would that do to your mental state?"

The level of desperation, as well as abuse, suffered by UK asylum seekers was documented in an Institute of Race Relations (IRR) report in September 2006, Driven to Desperate Measures (PDF).

THE IRR has catalogued a roll call of death of the 221 asylum seekers and migrants who have died either in the UK or attempting to reach the UK in the past seventeen years.*

97 died taking dangerous and highly risky methods to enter the country. With legal barriers in place to prevent them securing visas or work permits to enter legally and sanctions applying to above-board carriers, the desperate stow away on planes and lorries or attempt to cross the channel in makeshift boats or cling to trains. The number recorded here is probably only a fraction of those who have died in this way. Our figures rely on news reports and by virtue of the subject matter these deaths are not news.

70 died as an indirect consequence of the iniquities of the immigration/asylum system – either by taking their own lives when claims were not allowed, or by meeting accidental deaths evading deportation, or during the deportation itself, or by being prevented medical care, through becoming destitute in the UK.

Of these:

- 57 died at their own hand, preferring this to being returned to the country they fled, when asylum claims were turned down. And compounding the process is the fact that some of those in detention and known to be traumatised and particularly vulnerable appear not to have been provided with the medical (especially psychiatric) support they needed.

- 4 died accidentally as, in terror at what they presumed to be the arrival of deportation officials, they took evasive action.

- 1 person died during the deportation process itself, when she was asphyxiated as officers used 13 feet of tape to subdue and quieten her.

- 2 people died after being deported back to a country where they feared for their safety. The actual number is certainly far higher.

- 5 people died because of being denied healthcare for preventable medical problems.

- 1 person died destitute and unable to access services.

4 died in prison, police or psychiatric custody, where racist stereotypes appeared to induce the use of reckless control and restraint methods or where there appeared to be medical neglect.

32 died in the course of carrying out work, which, by virtue of its being part of the ‘black economy’ carried particular dangers and few protective rights. (The numbers listed here are probably a gross underestimate, as work-related deaths of people who are ‘illegal’ will often go unreported in the media.)

18 died on the streets of our cities at the hands of racists or as a consequence of altercations with a racial dimension. Often the victims had been moved, via the government’s dispersal system, to areas where they were particularly isolated and vulnerable to attack.

Situation Scandalous in the United States

Great Britain is not alone in treating asylum seekers with injustice. In the United States, the selection of the administrative judges who rule on asylum cases has been politicized, with dire results. In a Stanford Law Review article a few years back, "Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication", after studying hundreds of thousands of asylum cases decided by asylum officers, immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeal and the U.S. Courts of Appeal, the study found "significant disparities in grant rates, even when different adjudicators in the same office each considered large numbers of applications from nationals of the same country."

As in the UK, not much has changed in the United States as well, with over a quarter of all immigration judges appointed during the Bush-Cheney years. But even before that, a San Jose Mercury News investigation in 2000 found vast disparities in the way asylum applicants were treated by the system. As a report by VisaLaw explained it:

The study… reveals what many instinctively knew about the asylum process – that whether a person is granted asylum depends less on the merits of the person’s case and more on the judge before whom they present their case. The paper examined 176,465 cases that came before the 219 Immigration Judges between 1995 and 1999.

Some judges granted asylum in half of the cases they heard, while other judges granted asylum in less than two percent of cases. Some judges even routinely deny asylum to applicants from countries such as Bosnia and Somalia, where conditions mean that most applicants are granted asylum.

Of course, like Great Britain, the United States imprisons some of their asylum applicants, many of them torture victims, in public and private prisons throughout the country. Approximately 50,000 asylum seekers were placed in penal detention in the United States from 2003 to 2009. Detention retraumatizes the tortured, and prevents the asylum applicant from making a proper case for their claims. As a Human Rights First study (PDF) in 2009 explained it:

Six years after DHS and its interior immigration enforcement component, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as “ICE”) took over responsibility for immigration detention, the U.S. system for detaining asylum seekers is more flawed than ever…. In 2007 alone, more than 10,000 asylum seekers were newly detained in the United States. They are held in facilities that are actual jails or are operated like jails. They are often brought in handcuffs and sometimes shackles to these facilities, where they wear prison uniforms, are guarded by officers in prison attire, visit with family and friends only through glass barriers, and have essentially no freedom of movement within the facilities. The cost of detaining these asylum seekers over the past six years has exceeded $300 million. During that time, ICE parole policies have become more restrictive, and parole rates for asylum seekers dropped from 41.3 percent in 2004 to 4.2 percent in 2007. ICE has not provided Congressionally-mandated statistics—detailing the number of asylum seekers detained, the length of their detention, and the rates of their release—in a timely or complete manner. The U.S. detention system for asylum seekers, which lacks crucial safeguards, is inconsistent with international refugee protection and human rights standards.

Those who flee torture, rape, and political or social persecution and seek protection in another country are among the most vulnerable population on the planet. The HRF report in particular documents the punitive policy of ICE towards torture victims:

Previously, it was ICE policy to “favor release of aliens who have been granted protection by an immigration judge” when the decision was being appealed by the government. However, the new parole directive issued by ICE in November 2007 rescinded prior parole guidelines— including this guidance.

Even when ICE is not appealing an immigration judge’s ruling, some refugees and other immigrants who have been found eligible for other forms of protection have been detained for several additional months. For example, some individuals who were granted relief under the Convention Against Torture—because they had shown that they were more likely than not to be victims of torture if returned to their home countries—were detained by ICE for an additional 90 days even after the judge granted them relief. Attorneys in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota report that this is “often” the case in their areas. In Arizona and Florida, individuals who were determined by the U.S. to be “refugees” and were granted “withholding of removal”—and who therefore cannot be returned to the country in which they fear persecution— have also sometimes been detained for up to an additional 90 days.

Meanwhile, over 90 immigration detainees have died since ICE took over administration of the system in 2003, at least a dozen of them suicides.

Something is very wrong with a country when it treats its least powerful, most vulnerable members in such a disgraceful way. But what we hear from politicians in the UK and the United States is more often jingoistic and racist invective against "immigrants", and the population as a whole either turns away from this issue, poisoned with prejudice, or simply are ignorant of the stories of these individuals who live in their midst, but are hardly ever reported.

As a conclusion, I ask readers to consider just two stories from the HRF report, describing this terrible tragedy enacted every day by the U.S. government:

A Colombian refugee, who had been jailed, beaten, and tortured for participating in a political demonstration in Colombia, was detained in a U.S. immigration jail in Arizona for 14 months, including for over eight months after an Immigration Judge had ruled that he was eligible for asylum. The ICE attorney who had argued against the refugee’s asylum request appealed the judge’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. ICE refused to release the asylum seeker while the appeal was pending. ICE denied his request for parole, even though the man had both a U.S. citizen daughter and a U.S. citizen father. He was finally released after eight additional months in detention, over two weeks after the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the judge’s decision granting him asylum.

* * * *

A Sri Lankan fisherman, who was a victim of kidnapping by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was detained for 30 months in the United States while ICE opposed his request for asylum on the ground that his payment of his ransom consisted “material support” to the armed group. When he was finally released from detention pending a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, he was placed into a restrictive supervision program. He was fitted with an ankle bracelet and initially required to report on a monthly basis. Eventually, this was reduced to in-person reporting every six months. After nearly two years of compliance with all reporting requirements, following his 30 months of detention, the fisherman is still required to wear a large ankle bracelet and is subject to home visits.

ICE Uses Threats of Deportation to Produce Terrorism “Intel”

5:53 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

It’s bad enough we know that the government tortured Abu Zubaydah, Binyam Mohamed, and countless others in an attempt to produce false confessions, faked intel about Iraq, and in general hype up a "terrorism" threat that would justify the billions bilked from the U.S. treasury for the bogus "war on terror."

But now apparently the campaign to find terrorist boogie-men has come home with a vengeance. Just ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informants Emilio and Analia Maya of Saugerties, New York. According to a fascinating Associated Press report by Helen O’Neill, on November 17, 2009, Emilio was surrounded by nine ICE officers in flak jackets with guns.

"We are deactivating you"

"We are deactivating you," the officers told their former Argentinian immmigrant informer. The prisoner, who recognized agents who some years earlier had recruited him, was taken to jail over 100 milies away, and held over two weeks without charges.

Emilio and his sister Analia had made a deal with ICE back in March 2005. They could get S visas, "often known… as the ‘snitch visa’… because [it's] given to aliens who assist US law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities."

But as O’Neill reports, quoting New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky, ICE and parent agency the Department of Homeland Security never actually award anyone the S visa. Instead, "they use the most vulnerable people to do dangerous work, make them all sorts of promises and then just abandon them."

The AP story relates how the Mayas got involved with ICE, the dangerous missions they went on, the undercover work. When the brother and sister tried to back out of the informant game, they were told they had to continue or they would be deported. In fact, it turned out later that a deportation order for Emilio had been shuttling around ICE since December 2005, while for years they used him as an informant.

The Coerced Production of "Intelligence" on Terrorism

But the most interesting part of the story concerns what happened after Emilio and Analia had been working for ICE for some three years (emphases added):

In 2008, they say, the agents began demanding information on terrorism and guns – information the Mayas simply couldn’t provide. The brother and sister continued offering tips about local activities, but they were no longer sent on undercover jobs….

At a meeting in the Price Chopper parking lot [in May 2009], Emilio says, agents bluntly told him that unless he delivered information on weapons and terrorism, his work permit would not be renewed and he would be deported.

What seems clear is that the government, failing to get the easily controlled Mayas to drum up some kind of terrorist plot in order to feed the agency’s need promote itself and get a larger slice of the anti-terrorism funds sloshing around Washington, D.C., put the strong-arm on these immigrants, and when they couldn’t get them to produce, has prepared to deport them.

It doesn’t matter if a Congressman or a Senator intervened, as they did in this case. ICE and DHS apparently have little to fear from congressional inquiry. They are in a bureaucratic war to justify their existence, and in DC, it’s still, in the Obama years, all about terrorism.

Take a look at ICE’s own website, where it touts itself as "A Federal Leader in Combating Terrorism."

As the second largest federal contributor to the nationwide network of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a critical role in protecting the country against the threat of terrorism. With agents assigned to counter-terrorism investigations across the United States and around the world, ICE lends its expertise in enforcing immigration and customs laws to the over 100 JTTFs to investigate, detect, interdict, prosecute and remove terrorists and to dismantle terrorist organizations.

What are the JTTFs?

Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) are small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is a multi-agency effort led by the Justice Department and FBI designed to combine the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The picture is clear: ICE wants its seat at the table with the other 40 or so agencies now associated with the national JTTFs. It’s like a big assembly line feeding raw intel to the FBI and Department of Justice, and what matters is that you keep producing. The quality of the intelligence, as evidenced by the attempt to squeeze "terrorism" "tips" out of the hapless and unconnected Mayas, is evidently not so important. What is important is that everyone get paid and the gravy train keep rolling.

"We’re Going to Change Your Brain"

The saddest thing in the O’Neill story is to read about the impotence members of Congress have when soliciting the protection of their constituents with agencies from the executive branch.

But the scariest thing is to reflect upon similarities between the ICE/Mayas case and the torture of prisoners in the "black sites", rendition hellholes, Guantanamo and Bagram. Rather than the use of blackmail and extortion to coerce informants to produce bogus reports about terrorism, the U.S. abroad has resorted to outright torture.

The torture of prisoners like Binyam Mohamed — much in the news lately with the revelations by UK judges that Mohamed was subjected to CIA "enhanced interrogation technique"-style torture as early as March 2002 — was not about, or at least not solely about, the collection of information. It was about the manufacture of information, including false confessions and fingering others for prosecution or further torture. In an interview a few years back with Binyam Mohamed’s attorney, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve:

Binyam explained that, between the savage beatings and the razor cuts to his penis, his torturers “would tell me what to say.” He added that even towards the end of his time in Morocco, they were still “training me what to say,” and one of them told him, “We’re going to change your brain.”

This emphasis on brainwashing — for that is the popular terminology for such an assault on the psyche of a prisoner — is a key component of the kind of psychological torture that was researched by both the United Kingdom and the United States in the years following World War II. It highlighted the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, fear, stress positions, manipulation of the environment, of food, the use of humiliation and both sensory deprivation and sensory overload upon the prisoner. The idea was to overwhelm the nervous system and make a human being collapse without a blow being made, without scars, without evidence usable in court.

In an article at Truthout by H.P. Albarelli and Jeff Kaye, the connections between the old CIA mind control and torture research programs and those of today are documented. The conclusion is that radical change is needed if these crimes are not to consume our nation:

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind altering drugs by the U.S. in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs….

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed’s treatment in Pakistan notes that "The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed." As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, "Why were these effects being ‘carefully observed’ unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted used upon others?"…. The role of doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights….

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.