Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Clandestine ICE Subfield Offices
12/22/2009 UPDATE: For a recently published article inThe Nation magazine, please read "America's Secret ICE Castles."
For a list of ICE subfield offices and their phone numbers sent to me in response to a FOIA request, please go here.
A few weeks ago I was driving with Mark Lyttle to some of the government offices that had kidnapped him, stripped him of his rightful identity documents, rendered him stateless, and deported him to Mexico. (For more on how Mark, 33, born in North Carolina, was deported, please go here.)
One of the places we stopped was an address on several of the documents issued Mark from an ICE office in Cary, North Carolina. When we first arrived at the industrial park in a suburb of Raleigh, I thought google/maps had led me astray. 140 Centrewest Court was just next to a production plant for Oxford University Press, and off a main road with some gated communities. There was no sign indicating an ICE facility.
When I started to express some doubts Mark said, "No, this is it. That's one of their vans." He pointed to a white van with no marking and no windows behind the driver's seat. He recognized it because he'd been driven in one like that, in shackles and handcuffs. (It's not in these photos, alas.)
We continued toward the end of the road and found ourselves behind 140 Centrewest Court, at the far end of the development, adjacent to at least 15 unmarked white vans identical to the one we'd seen in front.
There was no sign anywhere indicating that this was a government building, much less a place where people were being held by ICE in transit to larger facilities.
Though there was a sign suggesting one might be given travel documents.
When I returned to Berkeley I called up some folks to see if I could learn more about these secret sites. Kathy Purnell, an Immigrant Rights Fellow at the ACLU in Georgia told me that she'd read something about them in a recent report by Dora Schriro, "Immigration Detention Overview and Recommendations" (October 6, 2009).
According to the report, these offices are used to hold people for up to 12 - 16 hours and are used for "84% of all book-ins." The subfield offices are below the legal radar so it would be impossible for anyone to know the conditions and if the limits are enforced.
I called ICE and requested a list of what the report says are 186 subfield offices.
First I was rebuffed. Temple Black, an ICE public affairs officer, checked with his supervisor and told me that these locations were "not releasable." He said the list was "law enforcement sensitive." Around the time he told me this he had a family emergency and left town. Mr. Black put me in touch with someone else at ICE who did release the list to me.
(I'm still not sure of the list's official classification. Mr. Black told me today that he was told the list was law enforcement sensitive and that he couldn't remember anything else, nor did he have information on why another individual would release the list.)
The list is not complete (it has 174/186 locations) and at least one of the addresses is not accurate. I have requested a complete list and am waiting for that.
I circulated the list to various civil rights and immigrant rights groups, including Detention Watch Network, the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch. I also shared it with about a half dozen attorneys who work on immigration law enforcement. No one had previously seen it. Some of the locations are known detention centers and federal buildings but many are like the place I saw in Cary: unmarked buildings with unmarked cars housing agents who themselves travel incognito.
For more on what's happening at these places, and the response from activists and attorneys, stay tuned for an article that will be appearing shortly in a national magazine. Meanwhile, feel free to stop by and say hello.