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.


feministnc said...

wow! I went to this exact place when I was getting an academic exchange visa for the UK, which required biometric pictures and electronic fingerprints... I thought at the time it was odd that an ICE office would get information for the British government, but little I imagined that I was close to a clandestine center of detention! Thanks for your work, btw, I've found in this blog a crucial voice helping discover the hidden structure of state coercion against a racialized other.

L.Rivas said...

Thx for this post, Jackie- it's amazing what DHS and ICE gets away with, just reveals the huge web of enforcement that most of the time i feel we only know a fragment of what actually happens in these places.

we need to continue to monitor and track all of this. adelante!

Anonymous said...

Incredible! But not completely, knowing that our government thrives on secrecy and hypocrisy its not surprising. Really appreciate your work in obtaining and circulating this list. I work for an organization and our main job is to defend immigrant rights in our very racist state. MS

NCImmigrants said...

We're local and knew some about the Cary/Raleigh-area office described here. A few years ago, we sought a permit to hand-deliver a letter there and speak to the media about our efforts to communicate with ICE. The permit request for the sidewalk in the industrial park was denied. Furthermore, we were told by Cary Police that we would all be arrested for trespassing if we attempted to hand-deliver any materials or assemble outside their office. I was not aware before today, though, that detainees are held at this location.

Anonymous said...

Our family was unfortunate enough to have lived down the street from this facility. One morning after walking the dog I was approached by two armed ICE Agents who took my husband and later shipped him to another clandestine facility in Lumpkin Georgia. It took four days of calls to different goverment entities before I found him.

Nathan Bogart said...

I had to try and find the local ICE office in Fayetteville, AR last week. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took me. Needless to say, when I did find it, there was no sign, no indication whatsoever that the office was that of ICE. Hidden in the corner of a window not visible from the street was an 8x11 piece of white paper with a letter to FedEx instructing them to leave packages for ICE at the front door.
Crazy stuff!

Jeffrey Rainey R. Cristi said...

I know it feels like ICE offices are hidden, and tit takes forever to find them. Almost, like they don't exist.

carol herrera said...

I thought this only happens in the movies - stripped off identity, providing you fake documents, address, and others. The authorities should arrest these culprits that totally changed Marc's information. Unless that happens he won't be able to live a peaceful and normal life.

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