Words Beyond Walls: Free the Adelanto 4

Four men at the 1300-bed Adelanto Immigration Detention Center in California launched the Free the People Campaign today, calling for their release and an end to the inhumane practice of immigration detention. The men are launching this campaign just days before Adelanto expands by another 640 beds and begins detaining women, including possibly about 50 transgender women.

The men explain that they have suffered mental and physical health problems as a result of being locked up for months and years inside this facility, which is owned and managed by GEO Group. This campaign comes on the heels of a blistering letter issued by the ACLU of Southern California in May, documenting a pattern of medical neglect and mistreatment at the facility. Other privately-run immigration detention facilities have been criticized for their lack of appropriate medical care, including the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona where 200 men recently went on a hunger strike in protest.

Carlos Hidalgo, who was thrown into solitary confinement at Adelanto and then transferred to another detention facility, says that people are not being treated properly at Adelanto. Hidalgo, who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), says that treatment for his condition is "less than zero" in immigration detention. When he asked for help from U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Adelanto, ICE said, "Talk to GEO; it's their house." When he asked for help from GEO, he says that a GEO officer told him, "Our motto is we don't get paid enough to give a shit."

Hidalgo, an outspoken advocate against the immigration detention system, was detained at Adelanto in February 2015, despite being previously released on an immigration bond that he had not violated. Hidalgo says GEO Group and ICE then threw him into solitary confinement in May because he was supporting the other men in detention in a myriad of ways, including by filing grievances.

After over 72 hours in solitary confinement, Hidalgo was transferred to Theo Lacy Facility because, as he was told by ICE, "GEO Group doesn't want you here." Hidalgo's court date has been postponed three times, due to this transfer and to a series of missteps by ICE, including "forgetting" to transfer Hidalgo and his file from the detention facility to his court hearing. On June 29th, his attorney was informed that the next court date is set for July 7th in Los Angeles.

CIVIC, NDLON, IYC, and RAIZ believe that Hidalgo would have been released on May 19th, his initial court date. We are concerned that ICE is evading the immigration court process and interfering with the administration of justice. Additionally, we believe ICE's actions against Hidalgo raise grave First Amendment concerns, as they seem to be in retaliation for Hidalgo's exercise of free speech.

Hidalgo agrees. These are his words beyond walls:

In solidarity with Hidalgo, three other men inside the male-only immigration detention center have launched the Free the People Campaign "for our voices to be heard." They reveal that "GEO Group rules over ICE" and that GEO consistently denies or delays necessary medical and mental health treatment. These failures have directly led to the death of at least one detainee, Fernando Dominguez, and there are significant questions regarding the recent death of Salvadoran immigrant Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos at Adelanto. The men further disclose that nurses with GEO's medical staff have repeatedly denied men sweaters to keep warm, presumably because more sweaters for the men mean less profit for the company.

Gerardo Corrales, a member of the Adelanto 4, is a 19-year-old teenager who is paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. He has been at Adelanto since February. Corrales was denied ample catheters, ostensibly as a cost-saving measure for the company. Within just a few days of his detention at Adelanto, Corrales contracted a urinary track infection from the lack of sanitized catheters and was hospitalized.

"When I was taken to an outside hospital not affiliated with the Adelanto Detention Center for my infection," explains Corrales, "I was told that I had kidney failure and could have died. Since I was brought back to Adelanto, I have not had any real checkups and have not received my medical records, despite my requests. I am calling for my release and for the release of all people who are disabled, especially at Adelanto."

Corrales further explains that ICE and GEO Group do not assist him with his daily living. In fact, the only assistance he receives at Adelanto is from the other men in immigration detention. Staff at the facility are even unwilling to fix his wheelchair, which he explains now only has one screw holding the entire chair together. Corrales is concerned that his chair is going to fall apart and he will be severely hurt. He has asked GEO officers, ICE officers, and the medical unit at Adelanto for a new wheelchair or for them to fix his current wheelchair. We have reached out to ICE's National Office, but have not received a response. We are astonished that the government is willing to risk liability for his fall from the broken wheelchair than spend a little money to either fix the wheelchair or give him another one.

CIVIC, NDLON, IYC, and RAIZ explain that ICE and GEO Group must comply with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As such, they must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, which we believe they have failed to do. We believe that ICE cannot safely keep Corrales in its custody, and therefore, ICE must release him in order to comply with federal law.

Corrales agrees. These are his words beyond walls:

To learn more about the Adelanto 4 and to sign the petition to free the people, click here. To learn more about the Adelanto Detention Center and the campaign to stop the expansion, click here. Check back in for more posts in this series in the coming months.