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Date: Fri, 14 Aug 98 17:12:04 CDT
From: Haiti Progres <haiticom@blythe.org>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 16:21 8/12/98
Article: 41176
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.9561.19980815181534@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

"Our daily ordeal is going unnoticed": Cries for help from Krome

By Mark Dow, Haiti Progress, This Week in Haiti, Vol. 16, no. 21
12-18 August 1998

"It takes so much strength to take this every day."

--Nicaraguan woman at Miami's Krome detention center

A woman from Angola fled to Cape Town, South Africa, and then to Miami, seeking political asylum. She spent about a month in detention -- eating her meals at Krome, and sleeping in a hotel room, where a male officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would wake her up throughout the night, pressuring her for sex. She would turn over, cry, and try to sleep. She was four months pregnant. When told of these allegations, a supervisor at the Krome detention center "started to laugh," according to attorney Cheryl Little.

The Angolan woman's seven-year-old daughter cried, too, along with the children of Somali women being detained at the same hotel. The children cried because they were hungry. "Usually, the officers will eat in front of the children who are hungry and they offer them nothing," the Angolan woman told an attorney. "The children cry and ask why they cannot have some and the officers yell at them and tell us to keep them quiet."

"All of the guards are scary," she continues. "They yell at us. They yell at the children and they do not let us sleep... My daughter asked me why we were in prison. She does not understand why she cannot eat or play at night and why I have to wear prisoner's clothes." The husband was also detained in the Krome clinic with a leg infection. When the woman experienced pains in her belly during pregnancy, she asked permission to go to the clinic. A guard told her, "'You aren't really sick, you just want to see your husband.'"

There are detainees at Krome who emphasize that the officers treat them fairly. A Somali woman who came to Miami via Egypt and India has been detained for over two years now. "Personally, I don't have any problem with any officer. And there are some very good officers here. But, unfortunately, here it seems they use the law to make problems for you, not to try to solve problems."

Despite her generosity, the Somali woman's own account reveals the familiar INS tactics of retaliation and repression: "If you talk here to Amnesty International [or] human rights groups like that you are going to get transferred. . . . We are very afraid of this." Even the INS's Caryl Thompson, Acting-Officer-in-Charge at Krome, told a meeting of advocacy groups in May 1998, according to an attorney present, "that the problem was that some officers did not want to accept the fact that detainees were human beings."

"[T]he biggest problem here is what this place does to you," says the woman from Somalia, who is willing to be deported to escape indefinite detention. "For example, a [Polish] woman here . . . died last week," she said in January 1998. "She had a passport and papers to go back but they kept her anyway. I think she was very depressed. And a lot of the Chinese girls have tried to do suicide, drink bleach for example. And _______ from Nigeria, died here on January 1st in 1996. I was playing soccer with him when he collapsed. We tried to help him, to open his mouth and give [him] air, but the medical emergency crew didn't come in time. They transported him to an outside hospital and the next day we heard he was dead. And nobody did anything here, no one accepted any responsibility. They just told us he was dead. He was here at Krome for more than 18 months, he had a family in Miami. How could they just forget this so easily?"

These accounts of life and death at Krome are based on materials provided by Miami's Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC). One name recurs throughout the collection of newspaper clippings and detainee affidavits: Lulseged Dhine. Dhine is responsible for collecting many of the details on the current conditions at Krome, and Krome officials have reportedly asked Dhine to organize a law library at the detention center. But Dhine is not an attorney -- he is an INS prisoner, perhaps the nation's best-known detainee, whose case has been covered by the New York Times, the New York Post, the Boston Globe, and the Miami Herald.

Lulseged Dhine has been detained by the INS for eight years now. In 1994, he helped organize a demonstration outside Manhattan's Varick Street detention center to protest conditions on the inside -- where he was being held.. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union would later document such facts as detainees being held for months, even years, without being permitted outdoors. In the middle of the night, Dhine was transferred to the INS's Service Processing Center in Florence, Arizona; an INS spokesman claimed the move was "to accommodate his request for fresh air and outdoor recreation" (Alisa Solomon, "The Prison on Varick Street," New York Times editorial, June 11, 1994). Dhine told The Arizona Republic that the transfer was in fact a form of retaliation -- a far more likely explanation. Those familiar with INS tactics will recognize the agency's long-standing strategy of isolating "troublemakers" -- that is, those who stand up when their rights are being violated -- from their attorneys, their support systems, and their media contacts.

Journalist Alisa Solomon explains the background to Dhine's case: "Dhine came to the US in 1978 when he was 15, as what was then called a conditional entrant refugee (before the current political asylum law was enacted). The year before, he had seen his parents and brother brutally murdered by the Mengistu regime. He fled on foot into the Sudan, and got assistance from a Christian refugee agency, which helped him come to America. He spent some time in Greenville, North Carolina, before being drawn north to the urban anonymity of Washington, DC. There, he recalls, his trauma caught up with him: he found escape in drugs. After several convictions -- all misdemeanors carrying sentences of less than a year , which he served in full -- the INS picked him up and began deportation proceedings in 1990. It was then that Dhine began fighting." ("Exiled from the Promised Land," Village Voice, March 10, 1998).

Today, at age thirty-five, Dhine's fight goes on, though the only avenue left is an appeal to the US Supreme Court, since a federal court has upheld the INS decision to deport him (there is also some possibility of deportation to a third country, such as France or Israel). In 1997, still in Arizona, Dhine suffered back injuries and is now confined to a wheelchair. In April 1998, he was transferred to Krome because, INS officials told the Miami Herald, that facility is easier for someone in a wheelchair to move around in (Andres Viglucci, "Ethiopian Jew at Krome fights deportation," June 7, 1998).

In late June, Dhine was pulled out of his wheelchair by a Krome guard. Dhine's own account of the incident matches those given by a Lebanese and a Jamaican detainee to FIAC. According to these statements, the officer refused the Jamaican man's request to cash his money orders (a standard procedure at Krome). When the Jamaican, who is paralyzed on his right side, repeated his request, the officer took offense at the prisoner's insistence, asking "Am I supposed to jump when you ask me to do something?" The officer then stepped on the man's foot and pushed him aside so that he could shut the door.

Dhine attempted to intervene. "The officer became angry with Mr. Dhine because Mr. Dhine insisted that the officer's supervisor be present so that I could file a grievance based on how I had been pushed and stepped on, says the Jamaican." The officer then turned off a television set; Dhine, using his cane, turned it on again, and the officer turned it off again. Then the officer grabbed Dhine's cane, and ended up pulling him to the ground.

Dhine lay on the floor for thirty to forty-five minutes. Then he spent another two hours in the Krome clinic without any medical attention, he says. Eventually, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, he was given pain killers, a neck brace, and an arm sling. Then, in the middle of the night -- the INS's preferred transfer time -- he was returned to Krome. "I was shackled to my bed until eight in the morning," he told attorneys. "I was told by other detainees . . . that the phones were turned off from 6 PM the night of the incident until 10 am the following morning. Detainees were denied phone access to their attorneys and family members during those hours. I believe the phones were shut off so that detainees at Krome would not alarm the media of the abuse that had occurred."

Dhine told the Miami Herald: "That's why they want to get rid of me. Because I'm bringing a lot of heat to them. They are pressuring you to go. You are supposed to bow down before them." While Dhine continues to speak his mind, his attorney Douglas Baruch of New York continues to urge the INS to "exercise discretion in Mr. Dhine's favor after considering his documented good deeds and his medical and religious circumstances" (since being detained, he has reaffirmed his faith as an orthodox Jew; rabbi's have testified to his character). About ten days after the wheelchair incident, Dhine said in a telephone interview from Krome, "They have shown their power. They have done it, and they got away with it."

US Attorney General Janet Reno has the authority to release Lulseged Dhine and any other INS prisoner from detention while their cases are decided. But, as New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler told the Village Voice, the people running the INS are "bureaucrats who think it's their duty to torture as many people as possible." In fact, according to two long-time refugee advocates, while there are a number of Washington officials who would like to make the INS detention system more humane, they feel that they cannot fight the local officials and their little kingdoms.

The Jamaican man involved in the incident at Krome later told FIAC attorneys: "The problem with Krome is that both the living conditions and the manner of treatment from the officers are dehumanizing. I am 40 years old, older than a lot of the officers here. I have grandchildren. I think older people deserve respect, regardless of whether they are detainees. I don't deserve to be pushed around, especially since I am unable to fight back . . . The conditions just aren't right here, and something should be done."

Something is being done: the INS detention machine is getting bigger, as well as more efficient in its mistreatment of those deemed undesirable in the current political climate. Recent changes reflect the INS's attempts to bring the notorious Krome North Service Processing Center, as it is officially known, into the contemporary age of corrections. Dormitories are now referred to as "pods," for example, but no matter what they are called, they remain overcrowded. The Miami District Office reported the Krome population at 344 on August 6th, while acknowledging that "We like to keep the population at approximately 274, 275. However we do have other buildings that can hold a lot more people" -- buildings such as the Public Health Service clinic, which detainees report to be filthy and roach-infested (see detainee letter). Nationwide, the INS expects an average daily detained population of approximately 24,000 by the year 2001, about half of these in county jails (the daily average for 1996 was about 8500). The INS is requesting $10.7 million for four new detention projects in fiscal year 2000, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees, a non-governmental organization.

After years of stonewalling advocacy groups, the INS this year finally issued a set of Detention Standards to govern such things as access to attorneys, telephones, and medical treatment. One of the new standards concerns "access to legal materials" for detainees. The U.S. Committee for Refugees, citing the Department of Justice, reports that "less than 11 percent of detainees were represented in their immigration proceedings in 1996, compared to 52 percent of non-detained persons in immigration proceedings." In July, Krome officials put detainee Dhine in charge of organizing a law library at Krome. Advocates have been demanding such a library for years. Dhine says that there are plenty of materials available; the problem he anticipates is that there is only enough room for seven detainees at a time in the library area. In any case, this situation exemplifies the double-edged sword of improved detention conditions. Of course, it is better for detainees to have access to legal materials. But this change will allow the INS to boast of "improvements" while it detains and isolates more and more people.

Krome, according to spokeswoman Mar!a Elena Garc!a, is "currently using the standards of the American Correctional Association," which are cited in the national INS standards. "We are currently seeking accreditation from them and we expect the walk-through to happen later on this year." But according to Christina DeConcini of the American Bar Association, while the new standards seem to be having a positive effect in some parts of the country, "a recent tour of Krome revealed that it was not meeting the majority of the standards." (DeConcini adds that, unfortunately, the standards do not cover the local jails in which the INS holds half of those in its custody.) Nine detainees report in an open letter to FIAC attorneys dated July 15, 1998, that Krome officials are violating the new standards in their handling of hunger strikes, recreation, and clothing for the prisoners (see detainee letter).

The arbitrariness of the jailers will continue to be the only true rule. Detainees will remain without any meaningful recourse when they are mistreated. Their July letter demands that the phone lines to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) "be unblocked so that detainees could file complaints if necessary." (The OIG is the watchdog agency of the Justice Department.) But even if detainees could reach the OIG's answering machine that records caller's complaints about government misconduct, it would hardly matter. Those who are not detained and who have the resources to follow up on complaints to the OIG have long recognized the futility of the process. The OIG, according to Human Rights Watch/Americas, lacks both resources and independence. "Many OIG investigators are former Border Patrol or INS agents," and "[a]pproximately 98 percent of INS abuse cases eventually are handled by the INS itself," according to a 1995 Human Rights Watch report concerning abuses along the US-Mexico border.

(In 1996, I wrote to the Miami INS District Director to convey detainee allegations that a Krome officer had entered the men's dormitory, lowered his pants, and threatened to "fuck our ass." Two years later, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the officer, Elio Gonzales, was simply reprimanded and sent back to work.)

Beyond such outright violence, the abuse inherent in the simple fact of unnecessary detention will continue. As Dhine said from Krome in early August, "They can get away with anything because society is not caring . . . unless society reacts, telling [that] this is unacceptable, our torture and our daily ordeal is going unnoticed."

In Miami in the early 90's, the community did react -- with demonstrations outside the gates of Krome to augment the quieter work of legal advocates. It's time for more noise.

In New York and New Jersey, volunteers are needed to visit INS detainees to help break their isolation. For more information, please call the Jesuit Refugee Service at (973) 733-3516.


July 15, 1998
Medical Care [and Clinic Facilities]

The medical care at Krome is incredibly lacking. The doctors . . . have been doing the same things for so long and getting away with it that they will not change . . . There are epileptic detainees who are not given their medication, then when they have seizures, they are yelled at and threatened to be sent to county jails.

[T]he nurses are trained more to abuse us than treat us. . . . [T]hey look at us as criminals. For example, we are consistently yelled at, there is no shower assistance for disabled persons, nor help with cleaning or making our beds, even for those physically unable to move normally or see.

Detainees are not provided with their daily medication on time. . . . When detainees complain, refusal notices are quickly placed in our files without the consent of the patient. . . . We are treated like animals.

It is important that our health is closely monitored, because we are housed in very close quarters. . . . The infirmary is extremely dirty, including the shower and bathroom, and it is cockroach-infested.

There is no handicap access for the bathrooms in [the clinic].

In [one clinic area], there are only two toilets for 40 or more people. This is a medical recovery unit, for all kinds of sick people.

Because of lime deposits, the small drinking fountains at sink tops are all clogged and inoperable.

Bathroom ventilation seems non-existent. . . . the stench of urine seems overpowering.

Presently there are a group of ill detainees responsible for cleaning the [clinic] facility. . . . It should be the responsibility of the INS staff.

General Treatment Issues

There are many detainees who have gone on hunger strikes. The guards are aware of this yet the detainees are not taken to [the clinic]. The Detention Standards say that a detainee should be brought to the [clinic] for monitoring, evaluation and eventual treatment after 72 hours of not eating. There is one detainee who was on a hunger strike for 17 days before he was transferred to [the clinic] for monitoring. Additionally, the medical staff does not encourage detainees on a hunger strike to eat, instead they ignore the detainee in the hopes that he or she will go away. One detainee was taken to the hospital after not having eaten for about 50 days, he was unconscious. He has not returned.

Deportation officers often do not provide detainees with information regarding the status of their cases. The deportation officers also don't expedite the process of obtaining travel documents to execute departure forcing detainees to remain detained even longer [after they have been ordered deported]. This is further hindered when the detainees are transferred to the county jails.

We protest to having minors and children with detention uniforms. . . We protest that minors and children are not being treated fairly. They sleep on the floor without mats and clothing. They go to the hotel between 4:30 pm and 5:30 am, and they are brought to the facility so early in the morning to suffer. In the room they are kept, there is no bathroom, no recreation for the children and no baby food. They should not be wearing a jail uniform, it is unconstitutional and it is unacceptable.

No male guards should be allowed to go into the hotel room of a female detainee with her child . . .

Many times our fellow detainees are forced to stay and sleep in the processing holding tank, sometimes on the floor, sometimes without mats and blankets for sometimes 24 or more hours. This is unacceptable.

Several of the INS Officers continue to be abusive to detainees. They intimidate the detainees when they ask for request forms or help by threatening to transfer the detainee to other institutions (i.e. jails).

There seems to be a group of family members who are officer[s] that work together under the same supervision . . . Anytime complaints are made about these individuals, the detainee is quickly transferred to a county jail.

Basically there is no grievance procedure or form in Krome . . . Detainees who make complaints are often transferred to county jails.

Our clothing is not always changed even twice per week, many times it is only once a week. In Miami, it is very hot and muggy, and our clothes get smelly and dirty fast . . . Underwear, socks, shorts and tee-shirts are not provided on a daily exchange as required under the Detention Standards. . . . Indigent detainees are not afforded underwear. Our underclothes we have to wash ourselves, in the sink, and there is no place to dry them. We can not hang them to dry.

The meals at Krome are served starting at 6:30 am for breakfast and dinner is served at 4 pm. Between dinner and breakfast, the detainees in building 8 have no access to food. No food or drinks is allowed in the dorm.

In the new building 8, the set up of the pods forces the detainees to use the toilets and showers in full view of the others in the dorm, especially those watching TV. This is a degrading experience. In the new building number 8, the freedom of movement is more restricted than in prior housing.

We protest the use of detainees as slaves to wash government cars and buses in exchange for fresh air, sunlight, cigarette breaks and $1 per day.

Detention standards and A[merican] C[orrectional] A[ssociation] standards provide for 7 days per week of recreation. This is being deprived at Krome, especially on Saturday and Sunday, but it is also denied on some of the weekdays for no apparent reason. . . . We believe this is a violation of our rights

Krome needs to have a chaplain. Detainees are nor afforded the right to exercise the faith of their choice which constitutes a violation of the first amendment of the US Constitution.

There is also a complete disregard of cultural differences. Offices generally treat detainees of different cultures without any respect or understanding. They make fun of detainees culture or insult and threaten them. . . . This adds to the stress and humiliation of those detained, especially when the detainee does not speak English or Spanish.

There is a great deal of favoritism by the many officers toward Spanish speaking detainees.

Law and Leisure Libraries

The law library is nonexistent and desperately needed. . . . It is very hard to get a copy of legal documents. This impairs the adequate preparation of our cases to enable a fair hearing since the government does not appoint lawyers to us in Removal proceedings.

Photocopy machines and typewriters should be available to the detainees for legal purposes to ensure that the detainees can prepare the documents needed for their cases.

[D]etainees are told we will have to stay detained for long periods of time while we wait [for our cases]. What is the purpose of waiting if we cannot present a case because we do not have the tools we need?

Detainees are prohibited to have in our possession magazines, books, and other literature. Instead, we are forced to watch TV all day. We need books to read.

There is also need for a leisure reading library. As detainees are locked up for 23 hours per day in their housing units, we believe it is only fair to set up a leisure library for detainees to check out books and magazines so they have mind recreation, instead of wasting their minds in very negative surroundings.

Access to Attorneys, Family and Other Individuals

We are deprived use of the telephone in [the clinic] for long distance including our attorneys and loved ones. The phone has been broken for two weeks in [the clinic]. This can be verified in the logbook.

The telephone continues to take our $.35, our money, without the call going through. When we ask the phone company, they tell us to talk to INS. When we talk to INS, including the O[fficer] I[n] C[harge], they tell us to talk to Bell South. We believe that it is unconstitutional and unacceptable for a private company, like Bell South, to make false profits from us.

The telephone should not have a time limit when we are talking to our attorneys. Currently, there is a 15 minute time limit to talk to our attorneys. We believe this is a violation of our attorney client privilege. We demand that phone limit be lifted. We should have unlimited calls to our attorneys. Also the telephones do not meet standards for confidential calls

Attorney Access. The major problem is the delays of several hours in bringing detainees for attorney visits. Many times when we get to the attorney visit, our attorneys have left because they could not wait any longer.

There is a list of free legal service providers posted in the dorms, but it is not accurate.

The telephone number for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) should be unblocked so that detainees could file complaints if necessary. Additionally, the OIG forms should be available to all detainees in all dorms.

There is still a problem with the mail. This should be a priority because detainees are depending on family and attorneys for correspondence. Detainees often do not get their mail on time. Detainees are not provided with envelopes nor stamps. Krome does not ensure the sale of envelopes and stamps which impairs the detainee's legal postage as well as correspondence with their families.

There is no mailbox for the detainees to place their mail in to be picked up by a postal officer. Instead the mail is given to a Detention Officer, who may be the same officer that has threatened to send you to a county jail if you do anything that he does not like.

Family visitation. Detainees are not afforded the full time for visitation. INS officers are very abusive to our visitors. They are verbally abusive to our visitors. There is no written policy notifying the detainees of the visitation policy and time limit. There is partiality in the visitations. Some people get 5 minutes, others get a half hour to 45 minutes. Sometimes people stand in the visitors' line with no one to visit. Then they sell their spots to others for $10.

The space available for visitation is insufficient.

We feel that the grievances we have raised are legitimate. Medical records and the testimony of certain detainees will support our position. There are many other abuses committed by the INS, and to detail them would be tantamount to writing a book. We give our heartfelt thanks to the F[lorida] I[mmigrant] A[dvocacy] C[enter] for its concern for our welfare, and we wish it success in eradicating injustice in America, which the founding fathers fought to prevent in the first place.

Thank you.

The Krome Detainees As Signed Below

[nine signatures follow]

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