The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to hold GEO, the country's most powerful private prison corporation, accountable for torturing Iraqi immigrants.
After a class-action lawsuit was filed to stop the United States from deporting Iraqi nationals and a federal district judge ruled in July that Iraqis should not be deported, the ACLU now says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at GEO's Colorado detention center have been torturing detainees. Ordeals Iraq nationals have been facing include being denied access to water, food, and the restroom.
In one case, the ACLU wrote, an Iraqi man who arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1976 claims that if he “goes back to Iraq, he will be tortured and killed.” However, because of the treatment he's been receiving under the care of ICE, the man now has told his wife he is considering putting an end to this torture by signing away his rights and getting sent back to Iraq.
On other occasions, the ACLU states, ICE guards called Iraqis “camel jockey,” “terrorist,” and “rag head.”
“Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, 'You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis,'” the ACLU claims. “When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was 'an alien.'”
In both Arizona and Colorado GEO prisons, ICE agents have been systematically telling Iraqis their cases are hopeless and that they should simply stop fighting to remain in the country. Unfortunately, ACLU says, some succumbed and signed forms agreeing to voluntary deportation. Others stood their ground and are now ACLU's clients.
Recently, ICE asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) to allow agents to destroy records of prison abuse. This move, the ACLU wrote, may be part of a broader movement to “reduce transparency and accuracy.”
With Iraqis suffering torture under ICE and the agency now fighting to keep its records out of the public's sight, ACLU and other civil rights organizations may have to push harder against President Donald Trump's administration for more accountability. The first step is to sue GEO on behalf of Iraqi immigrants.
Unfortunately, GEO has a strong presence in Washington, having hired Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ aides David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux.
The company was also a major donor of Trump's, giving $225,000 to a SuperPAC supporting the president during his campaign and donating an extra $250,000 to help cover his inaugural activities. With so much influence with the Trump administration, it's hard to see the president backing away from his plans to increase the U.S. prison system — even if GEO is successfully sued by the ACLU.
Hopefully, the ACLU is successful in exposing GEO and ICE for the crimes they have committed against Iraqi immigrants. After all, we will only be able to fight for justice if we're holding agents accountable. If they are allowed to continue perpetrating abuse against those under their care without facing the consequences, the culture of torture and neglect will remain strong.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser