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4. ICE Operates Secret Detention and Courts

Agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are holding thousands of US residents in unlisted and unmarked subfield offices and deporting tens of thousands in secret court hearings.

“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008.

Student Researchers:

  • Nicole Fletcher and Amanda Olson (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator:

  • Ronald Lopez (Sonoma State University)

People are held in a vast network of more than three hundred detention facilities, located in nearly every state in the country. Only a few of these facilities are under the full operational control of ICE—the majority are jails under the control of state and local governments that subcontract with ICE to provide detention bed space. However, ICE has created a network of secret jails designed for confining individuals in transit. These 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices are not subject to ICE detention standards, lacking showers, beds, drinking water, soap, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, mail, attorneys, or legal information. Many of these subfield offices are in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants—nary a sign, a marked car, or even a US flag.

In addition there is a complete lack of a real-time database tracking people in ICE custody, meaning that ICE has created a network of secret jails designed for confining individuals in transit that literally make people disappear. Immigrant detainees can be transferred away from their attorneys at any point in their immigration proceedings, and often are. Detainees can be literally “lost” by their attorneys and family members for days or even weeks after being transferred.

US residents who were held in Southern California suboffice B-18—up to one hundred on any given day—were actually in a revolving stockroom that would shuttle the same people briefly to the local jails, sometimes from 1 to 5 a.m., and then bring them back, shackled to one another, stooped and crouching in overpacked vans. These transfers made it impossible for anyone to know their location, as there would be no notice to attorneys or relatives when people were moved. At times, the B-18 occupants were left overnight, the frigid onslaught of forced air and lack of mattresses or bedding making sleep near impossible.

As one attorney who represents immigration detainees explained, “The transfers are devastating—absolutely devastating. [The detainees] are loaded onto a plane in the middle of the night. They have no idea where they are, no idea what [US] state they are in. I cannot overemphasize the psychological trauma to these people. What it does to their family members cannot be fully captured either. I have taken calls from seriously hysterical family members—incredibly traumatized people—sobbing on the phone, crying out, ‘I don’t know where my son or husband is!’”

ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians—Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers—in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. Guatemalans in the Boston area are seeing spies infiltrating factories, buses with tinted windows taking away unidentifiable co-workers, and men with guns grabbing their neighbors. During the summer of 2009, a woman came to the office of Marina Lowe, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Salt Lake City, saying she believed that ICE agents dressing as Mormon missionaries had been to her house. Lowe’s client noticed that the missionaries had lacked the black name tags she’d seen others wear, and had behaved in other ways inconsistent with missionary protocol, including entering her home while her husband was absent. After she confirmed that he lived there, they left. The next day, ICE agents arrived and arrested her husband. In response to a question about whether it was consistent with government policy for ICE agents to impersonate religious workers, an anonymously written ICE e-mail explained that impersonating religious officials is part of “ruse operations” and justified this as a “tool that enhances officer safety.”

You don’t have to go to Iraq or North Korea to find secret courts. Detention centers across the country are restricting public access to immigration courts. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), an agency in the Department of Justice charged with managing immigration courts, reported that its judges decided 134,117 deportation cases in 2008, of which 48 percent were for detainees. The individuals facing deportation hearings in these remote sites—far from their families, indigent, and without attorneys—are the most legally fragile population in the country.

Mark Soukup, supervisory detention and deportation officer in Eloy, Arizona, explained that ICE required a background check for anyone entering the immigration courts at Eloy, for which one would need to submit in writing, two weeks in advance, one’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, home address, and the particular hearing one wanted to attend. “The problem is that anyone with a felony or misdemeanor conviction in the last five years can be prohibited to come in for security reasons,” Soukup said.

Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, found the two-week prescreening policy unacceptable: “It is critical that the public and press have access to immigration proceedings to ensure that the proceedings are conducted fairly and consistent with due process principles. It is absolutely unlawful for the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to place unreasonable restrictions on access to immigration court.”

Update by Jacqueline Stevens

I have been writing for the Nation magazine, as well as on my blog States Without Nations, about unlawful and largely secret detention and removal operations by agencies within the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice (DOJ). My research on US citizens in ICE custody has been reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Charlotte Observer, CNN (online), the Huffington Post, and Mother Jones, among other publications, and I have been interviewed for National Public Radio’s Latino USA, Public Radio International’s The World, WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, Democracy Now!, and the Henry Raines Show in Tampa Bay, Florida.

My articles have sparked some responses among local activists as well as journalists. For instance, in January an immigrant rights group in Grand Junction, Colorado, paid a visit to an address from a list of subfield offices I obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In a memorandum, the group wrote that the building they located was “in the industrial section of Grand Junction [and] is non-descript with no signs identifying it as government office or ICE facility.” (An agent said the absence of a sign was because of budget cuts.) For more on this, see http://stateswithoutnations.blogspot.com/2010/01/neighbors-visit-ice-office- in-grand.html.

One policy consequence of investigations into ICE detaining and deporting US citizens appears to be a November 2009 policy requiring agents to report claims of US citizenship to a special ICE email address. I submitted a FOIA request for this e-mail correspondence and was informed of four thousand pages of documents. I have recently received the first hundred pages and am appealing redactions. Clearly ICE’s detention of US citizens continues to be a problem.

I am presently conducting research on unlawful actions taken by immigration judges. This research has proven difficult because of retaliation against me by top ICE public affairs officers Kelly Nantel and Brian Hale—they unlawfully ordered agents to block my access to ICE facilities around the country. In April, a DHS-contracted guard in Atlanta assaulted me pursuant to an order from William Cassidy, the immigration judge who deported a US citizen. (While I was in a waiting area, Mr. Cassidy told a guard to remove me from the federal building.) I have filed a misconduct complaint; in response Mr. Cassidy’s cronies at the EOIR are not answering questions—documents I have received indicate a cover-up campaign is underway.

Sources:

Jacqueline Stevens, “America’s Secret Ice Castles,” Nation, January 4, 2010, http://www.thenation.com/doc20100104/stevens.

Jacqueline Stevens, “ICE Agents’ Ruse Operations,” Nation, December 17, 2009, http://www.thenation.com/article/ice-agents-ruse-operations.

Jacqueline Stevens, “Secret Courts Exploit Immigrants,” Nation, June 16, 2009, http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-courts-exploit-immigrants.

Human Rights Watch, “Locked Up Far Away, The Transfer of Immigrants to Remote Detention Centers in the United States,” December 2, 2009, www.hrw.org/node/86789.

More information on these and related topics:

  • Karl Gustoff Weygandt October 9, 2010

    I notice a definite lack of respect for the laws-of-the-land – the article tries to “spin” the FACT that the persons detained ARE NOT infact, U. S. Citizens, but ILLEGAL TRANSGRESSORS [Not "immigrants"]. These individuals CHOSE to break well-known laws , and if they are moved secretly or detained without representation, that is justified because of their flaunting of America’s immigration laws and requirements.

  • Jim Breslin October 11, 2010

    Well Karl it might have been justified to “move secretly or detain without representation” in Germany, between 1933 and 1945, because of their flaunting immigration laws and requirements, but that’s neither “justified” nor legal in America. The way people in America think these days is getting scary!

  • Alex October 12, 2010

    Be careful what you condone Karl. The flagrant due process violations you smugly cheer today, will undoubtedly be used against YOU tomorrow. ICE has legal authority to arrest US citizens, and does in fact arrest US citizens. They are charged with enforcing immigration and customs laws. You don’t necessarily have to be an undocumented person to violate these laws, and thus be arrested by ICE.

  • George October 15, 2010

    Guys, technically NO LAW has been broken by MOST of the detainees. it is NOT unlawful to cross the border with out documentation, nor is it to remain working here after your visa expired. The breaking of the law happens ONCE you have been deported and then you RE-ENTER the country. So this secret detention centers and shady ways of rounding up “illegals” is NOT good nor is it lawful.

    • Buffy June 21, 2011

      This is incorrect. Section 212(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:
      (6) Illegal entrants and immigration violators.-

      (A) 8/ ALIENS PRESENT WITHOUT admission or parole.-

      (i) In general.-An alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled, or who arrives in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is inadmissible.

      What you are talking about is called “unlawful presence.” The calculation of “unlawful presence” does not occur until after the alien leaves the US and then tries to come back.

      This is a concession the US makes because of the vast numbers of illegal aliens in this country, in effect not enforcing this law declaring such aliens inadmissible, unless they leave and then try to come back.

  • Web Design Dallas October 19, 2010

    Thanks for this amazing tidbit! I will definitely have to use this in my blog!

    Farewell!

  • Rob October 21, 2010

    Karl, I do not know you nor have I ever met you but I am sure from your post that you are a racist, and know nothing of the legal system in this country.

  • sweetleaf October 21, 2010

    very interesting fact george and thank you.

    and karl… yours is the kind of not knowing that you and others swallow from the swill of the spin that it is a simple problem of disrespect for the “law of the land”. this is a perfect example of a fascist practice. is that the law of this land? your comment reminds me of what i read about tea party people and the so called constitutionalists, that for all they have to say/scream about “bringing back” the constitution, they don’t seem to know much about it.

    this is a grievous break down of the protection given to all who are in this county, (by whatever means), from our constitution and the liberty we value so highly. if this can happen to others this can happen to you…also too much of what happens in detention experiences are not, and i repeat are not a means to justify an end – any end, no matter the crime. this is an obvious case in point. imao… we are paying for this atrocity against humanity by default.

    i suggest karl, go purge yourself from the bile of your understanding created from the swallow of the spin you subscribe to. start with a fresh look at your own reaction first buddy, relax and don’t add to the consciousness field of hate.

    children are watching.
    peace one love and pass it on.

  • Emily October 27, 2010

    Yay for them!

  • Stephen December 29, 2010

    Sweetleaf, please understand that most Constitutionalists see this as a grievous subversion of Constitutional principles and rights. Don’t believe everything that you hear from the Corporate news. Their motto is divide and conquer. Anyone that claims to be a Constitutionalist, yet espouses fascist dogma, is a fascist. You shall know them by their fruits.

  • Arty1x1 June 20, 2011

    This article contains terrible allegations and absolutely no facts or sources besides alleged anecdotal evidence. I can tell you right now this is nothing but a bunch of hogwash and it does the government a huge disservice. You obviously are willing to fabricate lies against our govt to promote the illegal alien agenda.

  • Arty1x1 June 20, 2011

    This article contains terrible allegations and absolutely no facts or sources besides alleged anecdotal evidence. I can tell you right now this is nothing but a bunch of hogwash and it does the government a huge disservice. You obviously are willing to fabricate lies against our govt to promote the illegal alien agenda.

  • Moriyah_tobyahnah June 21, 2011

    In 2007 I was arrested without warrant 3 times in one week. Twice by ICE. Having spent 4 months in ICE/DHS detention I can attest to the basis of facts in this article. ICE is the new Federal Police. US Citizens have far more to fear than aliens. I pray for my US Citizen wife while I rebuild my life in Canada. Welcome to the NWO.

  • Moriyah_tobyahnah June 21, 2011

    In 2007 I was arrested without warrant 3 times in one week. Twice by ICE. Having spent 4 months in ICE/DHS detention I can attest to the basis of facts in this article. ICE is the new Federal Police. US Citizens have far more to fear than aliens. I pray for my US Citizen wife while I rebuild my life in Canada. Welcome to the NWO.

  • Bendover June 21, 2011

    My “Life on Ice” story.
    http://www.conspiracycards.com/ice.htm

  • Bendover June 21, 2011

    My “Life on Ice” story.
    http://www.conspiracycards.com/ice.htm

  • Jmichaelschafer June 23, 2011

    Awareness is the name of the game in exposing this stuff. To whom do we thank? Every single corrupt person along the way? The system is corrupt by fascism to varying degrees going all the way to the top. Bushes, Clintons, Obama, but follow the money trail and it tells a story. CIA is run by whom? LBJ, Nixon, Cheney Bush, Ford fits in someway I recall, another Bush, Clintons all involved by money and establishment. ICE and the judge are small potato’s. Don’t think Quail went down the rabbit hole as he was not smart enough. Solution: Start a new movement. READ THE CONSTITUTION it has answers that are being steped on top of everyday.

  • Jmichaelschafer June 23, 2011

    Awareness is the name of the game in exposing this stuff. To whom do we thank? Every single corrupt person along the way? The system is corrupt by fascism to varying degrees going all the way to the top. Bushes, Clintons, Obama, but follow the money trail and it tells a story. CIA is run by whom? LBJ, Nixon, Cheney Bush, Ford fits in someway I recall, another Bush, Clintons all involved by money and establishment. ICE and the judge are small potato’s. Don’t think Quail went down the rabbit hole as he was not smart enough. Solution: Start a new movement. READ THE CONSTITUTION it has answers that are being steped on top of everyday.

  • Robertbethune2000 January 6, 2012

    Get real ! I am a honorably discharged US navy vet who proudly served my adopted country, in 2007 I went to renew my green card in Phoenix and was promtly arrested for a misdemenor no contact order arrest in 1996 ( I made a ph call to my wife) I lived in the US since 1966 , my wife was American ,my kids are American , I spent 11 months locked in a cell at Eloy alone 23 hrs a day to” protect” me , no attorney , use of the ph only between 12:00 am to 3:am , I was finally deported to Canada in Nov. 2007  my wife commited suicide in 2009 ( same wife I made the ph call to) she BEGGED the judge to let me come home….I live in a much better place where people are free …. I pray everyday for my wife…I pray everyday for the people in the US , I think (hope) the public will eventually realize a police state cannot survive , not in the 1940′s or in this new century , good luck….

    • Ray January 20, 2012

      my name is ray i am an honorably discharged veteran from the U.S army that was deported to el salvador in 2008 i lost my life to this deportation i went trough hell with it, i read your post i am very sorry  for what has happened to you. i want you to know after reading your post i find comfort in your prayers it motivates me to do the same take care.

  • Robertbethune2000 January 6, 2012

    Get real ! I am a honorably discharged US navy vet who proudly served my adopted country, in 2007 I went to renew my green card in Phoenix and was promtly arrested for a misdemenor no contact order arrest in 1996 ( I made a ph call to my wife) I lived in the US since 1966 , my wife was American ,my kids are American , I spent 11 months locked in a cell at Eloy alone 23 hrs a day to” protect” me , no attorney , use of the ph only between 12:00 am to 3:am , I was finally deported to Canada in Nov. 2007  my wife commited suicide in 2009 ( same wife I made the ph call to) she BEGGED the judge to let me come home….I live in a much better place where people are free …. I pray everyday for my wife…I pray everyday for the people in the US , I think (hope) the public will eventually realize a police state cannot survive , not in the 1940′s or in this new century , good luck….

    • Ray January 20, 2012

      my name is ray i am an honorably discharged veteran from the U.S army that was deported to el salvador in 2008 i lost my life to this deportation i went trough hell with it, i read your post i am very sorry  for what has happened to you. i want you to know after reading your post i find comfort in your prayers it motivates me to do the same take care.

  • Moriyah January 7, 2012

    6 months later the Federal Police State is fully in force. First they came for the aliens….
    The highest power of domestic USA law enforcement is ICE. 

  • Moriyah January 7, 2012

    6 months later the Federal Police State is fully in force. First they came for the aliens….
    The highest power of domestic USA law enforcement is ICE. 

  • Robertbethune2000 January 7, 2012

    google map 1705 E Hanna road Eloy AZ , you wont see a thing….

  • Robertbethune2000 January 7, 2012

    google map 1705 E Hanna road Eloy AZ , you wont see a thing….

  • Buffy June 21, 2011

    This is incorrect. Section 212(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:
    (6) Illegal entrants and immigration violators.-

    (A) 8/ ALIENS PRESENT WITHOUT admission or parole.-

    (i) In general.-An alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled, or who arrives in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is inadmissible.

    What you are talking about is called “unlawful presence.” The calculation of “unlawful presence” does not occur until after the alien leaves the US and then tries to come back.

    This is a concession the US makes because of the vast numbers of illegal aliens in this country, in effect not enforcing this law declaring such aliens inadmissible, unless they leave and then try to come back.

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