Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Monday calling for an investigation into accusations that a Florida immigration facility repeatedly served pork to Muslim detainees.
The letter comes after a claim by advocacy groups in August that detainees at the Krome Service Processing Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miami, were given the choice of pre-packaged pork-based meals or expired halal meals. The pork meals violated their religious beliefs; the halal meals made some of them ill.
“We want full accountability,” Omar told HuffPost. “Our hope is that there will be an investigation and we will get a full account of what has transpired and the ways in which they will bring the ICE officials into account.”
Omar, Tlaib and Carson, all of whom are Muslim, organized and signed the letter, which 25 other Democratic lawmakers co-signed. It demands that the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at DHS make the results public and will “ensure that all Muslim detainees and other detainees requiring religious dietary accommodations are given immediate access to those accommodations.” The letter also demanded that ICE officers and employees involved are held accountable.
The Muslim detainees who ate from the halal meals suffered “stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,” according to a letter sent by Muslim Advocates, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and the law firm King & Spalding.
ICE has denied the allegations and previously told HuffPost that its “Performance-Based National Detention Standards cover all aspects of detention to include reasonable accommodation of religious dietary practices.”
The lawmakers’ letter also notes that this was not the first time Muslim detainees were compelled to eat pork at U.S. facilities. The Congress members also asked DHS to expand its investigation beyond Krome to other facilities where significant numbers of detainees require religious accommodations.
According to Muslim Advocates, nearly 40% of its 163 Muslim prisoner-related federal lawsuits pertaining to religious freedoms filed by the advocacy group from October 2017 to January 2019 were about dietary needs.
Omar said better procedures need to be in place to ensure detainees are treated humanely and their religious rights are protected “as we continue to advocate for these detentions not to exist and for ICE to not have the current authority that they have to brutalize people.”
“The United States was founded on the principles of religious liberty and equality before the law, and this episode for us not only represents the latest betrayal of those principles by this administration but one that shows how this presidency is built on xenophobia and anti-Muslim hate,” Omar said. “We want it to not only bring attention to that but to bring an end to it.”