Homeland Security has begun denying immigrant-rights groups access to detention facilities and to some of the illegal immigrants being held in them, a coalition of organizations said in a civil rights complaint filed Wednesday.
While the problems go back for a year, they’ve gotten worse in the weeks since President Trump was elected, according to the group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), which asked the Homeland Security Department’s civil rights office to investigate.
They said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun limiting visits to its four Phoenix detention centers to once a month. And during a visit to a California detention center earlier this month detainees who’d signed up to meet with the CIVIC team were blocked from speaking.
One particularly controversial facility in Pennsylvania, the Berks Family Residential Center, has begun limiting visits to protect the privacy of the detainees, CIVIC said.
The centers have come under scrutiny for years, amid accusations of poor treatment of detainees. Just last week the Homeland Security inspector general issued an emergency alert warning that detainees being held in an ICE-contracted facility in Orange County, California, were being served spoiled food, and that high-risk detainees were being mixed with low-risk detainees.
“We are deeply concerned that President Trump is trying to hide what is happening in immigration detention facilities by curtailing access to them,” said Christina Fialho, a lawyer and co-executive director of CIVIC.
The group said denying visits violates ICE policies that grant “stakeholders” in the immigration process access to both detention facilities and to immigrants who are being held, but who say they want to meet up with the groups.
ICE officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
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