For a brief moment in December 2017, the international spotlight shined on the case of 92 deportees who were on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement-chartered flight to Somalia. Most such flights unload their human cargo once they land, but this flight, for logistical reasons, returned home — and brought witnesses back with it.
The Somalis told of abuse on the flight, saying they were shackled with chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for more than 40 hours; forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves; and that ICE officers beat and threatened some passengers. (ICE has denied that it mistreated detainees on the flight.)
But even after the spotlight dimmed, the abuse continued. The Somalis are still being held at the Krome Detention Center and the Glades County Detention Center in Florida, as their lawyers try to fight their deportations. At Glades, where half the group is being held, they have complained of a litany of abuses, including violent assaults by guards, denial of medical care, lack of access to their lawyers, and racism.
“The guards and the administration up there at Glades, they think they’re immune. To me, it’s so brazen to be doing this. They know there’s a federal case. They know we’re up there all the time. They know there are investigators up there,” said Lisa Lehner, an attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice, one of the groups representing the Somalis. “They called them ‘niggers.’ They called them ‘boy.’ They’ve said things like, ‘We’re sending you boys back to the jungle.’” An ICE spokesperson in Miami declined to answer questions about the complaints coming from Glades, citing pending litigation.