Monday, March 25, 2019

New FOIA Release - Butler County ICE Detainees Paid in Coffee Packets, ICE Punishes Hunger Strikers in Tacoma

Butler County Jail, Ohio, Cleaned for Coffee Packets, courtesy of TNEMEC
Attorneys have been suing private prisons for their exploitation of people in custody under immigration laws, a phenomenon that has been receiving increasing coverage by the mainstream media.  But county facilities also are violating labor laws.  This post discusses highlights of the labor situation in the Butler County Jail.

A document released last week shows that ICE has been aware that Butler County has been requiring people to work without compensation since at least 2014. Here's the text from an email a reporter sent to public affairs official Gillian Christensen, who copied and pasted it in her own email to ICE custody officials Tae Johnson, Kevin Landy, and Andrew Strait-Lorenzen:
Just got call from Sheriff Jones from Butler County Ohio.  So, he said that none of the immigrant detainees work on chain gangs, they don't leave the four walls.  However, he did say that his immigrant detainees work jobs inside the jail.  He houses about 300 immigrants on any given day and typically about 50 are working jobs.  I asked him whether these jobs are paid.  he said no.  "it's just part of what I require".  They do all the work on cleaning, upkeep of the section of the jail where they are housed.  He estimated it saves him hundreds of thousands of dollars per year not having to hire staff to handle janitorial and such in that section of the jail.  He said he is not a member of the federal work progrm so he doesn't get a dollar a day reimbursement because his detainees are housed there for too short a period and the federal paper work would not be worth the headache.  (FOIA Supp. Release I, p. 194)
In a New York Times article published shortly after this email, Ian Urbina wrote:
Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, Ohio, said his county saved at least $200,000 to $300,000 a year by relying on about 40 detainees each month for janitorial work. “All I know is it’s a lot of money saved,” he said.
Urbina's report in the Times is terrific, but omits legally important information: the jail is not paying folks a penny for their work and not participating in the reimbursement program.

The private prison firms GEO Corp. and CoreCivic, as well as ICE, have defended paying people in custody under immigration laws $1/day or more based on a section of the Performance Based National Detention Standards and a 1950 statute authorizing payment of allowances for work performed by those held under immigration laws at a rate to be set by Congress from time to time in the appropriations act.  (Here is law review article criticizing these legal claims and explaining the program's history.)

No one in ICE has provided any legal rationale for incentivizing work by those in custody under immigration laws by more food, visitation, or threats of force, overt or implicit.

To find out if the 2014 email and reporting on Butler County triggered any changes, I spoke today with Sheriff Richard Jones and Chief Anthony Dwyer.  

Jones claimed to have no recollection of any report in the New York Times about his work program or any conversation with ICE about this, either.  He also claimed to have much less knowledge of the program more generally than he had in 2014, suggesting that the longer he has run the jail, the less familiar he has become with how it operates.  When I asked if the facility participated in the formal work program compensating people at least $1/day he said, "I have no idea.  I wish i could tell you. I don't know if we participate." Sheriff Jones said someone with more working knowledge would call me back.

Chief Dwyer confirmed that the jail, found out of compliance on dozens of ICE standards, still was not participating in the formal "Voluntary Work Program."  He explained that each unit of about 100 people has two porters.  The porters personally mop and maintain the living quarters as well as elicit work by others, such as cleaning the showers, painting, and general upkeep.  The porters, selected monthly, receive 20 coffee packages/ week, "the same as sentenced inmates" in the part of the jail used for prisoners convicted of crimes.

"ICE runs a program where they require a stipend," he explained.  "We operate under an IGSA standard for the facility" that does not require this.  The compensation, in addition to the coffee, includes increased visiting options and also exemptions from facility lockdowns.  "Being a porter is a privilege," he explained.

I suggested to Chief Dwyer that even if the labor of the porters and those working under the porters truly is not at gunpoint,  it still might not be legal.  McDonalds cannot defend itself, for instance, by claiming that people without legal authorization to work thought it fine, even a privilege, to be paid in Big Macs.  

Dwyer referenced a text message someone had sent him in preparation for our interview with a screen shot of the IGSA requiring only that the compensation be identical to those in criminal custody.  He also rejected my McDonalds analogy, stating it was inappropriate for a "correctional environment."  

And yet, as I pointed out, and as is clear in the contract Chief Wyden personally signed, people in custody under immigration laws are not there for purposes of "correction."  As the contract states
All persons in the custody of BICE will be referred to as an "Administrative Detainee".  This term recognizes that BICE detainees are not charged with criminal violations and are only held in custody to assure their presence throughout the administrative hearing process...
Sheriff Jones had referred to "immigration prisoners" and Chief Wyden said any emphasis on the distinction between ICE and criminal detainees was "an invalid point." He stated that the IGSA with ICE stated that as long as the porters held for ICE are "compensated like anybody else," i.e,., the porters convicted of crimes, then the jail had no legal worries.  I asked if he could read the portion of the text that stated this.  He stated he had seen a picture of this section of the contract but could not read it to me.  He reiterated that the "IGSA says we should compensate for whatever you do the same as you do for anyone else you in the facility."  (Of course as soon as we hung up I submitted a request for this under the Freedom of Information Act.)

MORE - Hunger Strike Docs for Tacoma, Woman Choked in Delany Hall, NJ (p. 280)
The document here and thousands of pages more are a result of litigation under the Freedom of Information Act.  Andrew Free has been representing me in this litigation for several years, with assistance from local counsel in Chicago Andy Szot; in recent months, attorney Nicolette Glazer has taken over.  Their work makes possible my research, publications, and especially important, a number of student training opportunities.

Monday, February 4, 2019

End Campus-wide E-Verify at Northwestern University, Letter to the Editor and Petition

Below is the Letter to the Editor of the Daily Northwestern from representatives of undergraduate and graduate student groups and faculty at Northwestern University.  It includes a link to a spreadsheet US Citizenship and Immigration Services produced listing the institutions of higher education that signed MOUs obligating them to use E-Verify for all employees, including student research assistants, and not just those working on a federal grant or contract.  (Some institutions are obligated to do so because of state laws.)

Please consider signing our petition
Daily Northwestern - NU leaders endanger students, employees through E-verify

Since 2009, Northwestern faculty, staff and students have voiced concerns about NU implementing a discretionary program that turns over private data from students, staff and faculty to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through a program called E-Verify. As the timeline on this matter shows, in the last decade, various NU legal and administrative officials have responded to our concerns by misrepresenting the necessity of E-Verify for those not directly employed by government contracts. We now have proof as to the shocking scope of individuals affected at NU and the false claims shared with us about the University’s need to participate.
In response to litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, we received the Memorandums of Understanding NU signed to initiate and renew its participation in E-Verify, which then-General Counsel Philip Harris refused to release last spring. Through this litigation, we received national data revealing that NU is the only research university in Illinois to participate campus-wide and that its participation is an extreme outlier: fewer than 1 percent of institutions of higher education have in fact signed these MOUs obligating campus-wide participation.
The MOUs with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services prove that NU is under no legal obligation to force the vast majority of its community to provide their personal data to a Homeland Security database that, according to the ACLU, poses threats to our privacy and that violates the national criteria proposed for campuses seeking to welcome noncitizens.
In sharp contrast with hundreds of research universities in states not obligated to participate in E-Verify, NU forced over 76,000 students, staff and faculty to submit personal information to databases that share their information with third parties. Anyone employed by NU since 2010 is in this database. Our analysis of the USCIS Excel sheet itemizing NU’s submissions of our data reveals that over 190 individuals were specifically targeted by NU for Homeland Security as attempting to work without authorization approved by E-Verify. The final determinations are not yet clear; we expect to receive additional data from this litigation shortly.
As the MOUs clearly state, NU can after 30 days notice stop reporting data on all new hires who are not directly working under federal government contract. At that point, everyone who is working on a federal contract will have been already included in the E-Verify database.
The only new hires whose data would need to be submitted would be those working directly on a federal contract, which is exactly the situation of our peer institutions. If the University of Chicago (and over 99 percent of other institutions of higher education) can target only new hires working on federal contracts for E-Verify, then there is no logistical impediment to prevent NU from doing this as well.
We have been sharing our concerns with President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway since last spring. On Jan. 8, 2019 we wrote a letter to them stating that, in light of NU’s stated intention to protect the educational opportunities of its noncitizen community and this new information proving the inaccuracy of claims about NU’s obligations to USCIS, we wanted them to reconsider their earlier position. We requested that NU immediately send the 30-day notice of an intent to withdraw from campus-wide participation in E-Verify. President Schapiro and Provost Holloway did not reply, though they regularly opine to The Daily their support of DACA students, a population NU’s own attorney has agreed is at special risk from E-Verify.
We write now to ask others to join us in sharing with Schapiro and Holloway your concerns by signing this petition.
Students Organizing for Labor Rights (SOLR)
Seri Lee, Weinberg 2020
Allyson Bondy, Weinberg 2020
Erykah Nava, Weinberg 2020
Sharmain Siddiqui, Weinberg 2020
Natalie Vega, Weinberg 2019
Jessica Wang, Weinberg 2019

Northwestern University Graduate Workers,
Jorge Coronado, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
President, NU-AAUP
Alessandra Visconti, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of French and Italian
Vice President, NU-AAUP
Jacqueline Stevens, Professor of Political Science
Secretary, NU-AAUP

Added on 2/7/2019: For links to the General Dynamics piece of the NU E-Verify story, please see this 2016 Letter to the Editor

Saturday, January 26, 2019

BITMAP Targetting Alleged "Adults" and Asylum-Seeking Children In U.S. Custody, not Terrorists

November 14, 2018 Email on BITMAP, X-Rays, and Age Reassessment, click to enlarge 
BITMAP is among the numerous global, mammoth data-collection enterprises that bring Orwell's nightmare to life.  It's supposed to "identify criminal persons, wanted subjects (including international  fugitives), and known or suspected terrorists" (House Report, p. 2).  But an email I obtained yesterday from an official in the Department of Health and Human Services through FOIA litigation reveals it is being used to target people who secretly may be ... adults.  

The email states: 
As you all know, we have a number of Bangladeshi nationals in our programs, who appear to be adults....If you have dental forensics showing 75% or greater probability that the individual is an adult, and you receive Bitmap information corroborating this, then the case meets ORR policy to make an age redetermination. -Thomas Curry, PhD, LPC-S, Federal Field Specialist Supervisor, South Texas Region, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement
This is exactly the sort of mission creep against which civil libertarians warned.  Any positive hits also are a likely source for the Trump administration claims that they've snared terrorists crossing into the U.S. from Central America, when what they meant was that a database that was sold as targetting terrorists was used to move asylum-seekers from a DHHS facility into ICE custody prior to their immigration court hearings.

Of course Trumpists will be tickled that a lying Bangladeshi adult will be removed from DHHS custody and placed into the harsher (and cheaper) ICE facilities.  Except that the data on which such a move is based is just guesswork dressed up as science.  The dental forensics are junk science and the databases are no more reliable.  

Of course Trumpists will be tickled that anyone who isn't a White national will be removed from DHHS custody and placed into the harsher (and cheaper) ICE facilities.  So let's argue about that.  

And now since we're on that topic, I just gotta say, how about offering to scrap the entire ICE budget EXCEPT for building the damn wall?  If the wall is so ineffective, then what is so "immoral" about it?  

Dream legislation for AOC to introduce: Let Trump build his beautiful concrete wall on the border as a giant monument to Byzantium.  I'll give him the shovel.  Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, asylum-seekers who show up at a port of entrance must be admitted and released on their own recognizance; no more funding for ICE's long-stay detention facilities; no more arrests at court-houses of people who may have overstayed their visas; no more bogus marriage fraud threats of petitioners; no more Kafkaesque interrogations of the birth documents of brown-skinned people; and no more BITMAP.  The U.S. fully implements the 1964 Civil Rights Act and ends discrimination based on birth. Anyone inside the United States is left alone unless they break a criminal law unrelated to their hereditary status.  

So while Trump and his gang of idiots are building their wall -- and fighting off pissed-off ranchers, etc. -- the rest of us focus on implementing policies that defeat global apartheid.  As my colleague Daniel Morales states so eloquently,
 [W]hen the undocumented break the law and enter the U.S., they not only seize the privileges of rich-world life that the U.S. chose to deny them, they also send a clear message that the American immigration system and the broader political order of which it is a part, do not meet their needs. -Daniel Morales, "Undocumented Migrants as New (and Peaceful) American Revolutionaries"  Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy (2016)
For more on the desirability of open borders, check out a new collection of essays just published by University of Georgia Press, and including a contribution from Joseph Nevins. 

Meanwhile, we need to remain vigilant about BITMAP, first passed during the Obama administration in 2011.  A bill to make it permanent passed the House in December but did not pass in the Senate, though an amended version was reported out favorably by a Senate Committee on September 5, 2018.  The ACLU, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigration Law Center, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild issued an excellent explanation of its problems.

Within hours of the government opening for business, I received hundreds of pages of documents revealing how age reassessments are being performed by contractors working for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I requested these as part of a research project with the Pangea Legal Services, committed to assisting free movement, and hope to be releasing a report on our findings shortly.

#End read more