Photo of Latinx children at a Texas detention center. Few white male guards in uniform.

Take a Stand for Immigration and Disability Rights

By Vanessa Cuellar

Although this country has been divided by different political views over the last few years, I am most certain that Americans can all agree on one thing:  Human beings should not be treated unfairly and inhumanely.  

Many of those coming to our country are leaving everything behind—their families, their homeland, their culture, their lives. Seeking a better life, for one’s self or family, should not subject a human being to torturous conditions lacking basic human rights. 

Unfair Treatment of People at the Borders 

There has been an increase in the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers at our borders, including people with disabilities. Not only are people being held in harsh conditions, the detainees (people being held or detained), are also suffering from a lack of medical attention needed to maintain healthy well-being.  

Three photos of packaged food
Open packaged raw meat and food items leaking blood, not relabeled and dated, observed by OIG at the Essex facility on July 24, 2018 (left); food not properly labeled or stored at LaSalle facility on August 7, 2018 (center); and unlabeled food with no description or date at Aurora facility on November 6, 2018 (right). Source: OIG

According to the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General’s report, inspections of the four detention facilities revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities detention rules were broken and detainees are held in unhealthy ways: 

  • “Significant food safety issues” – spoiled food that puts detainees at risk for illnesses that can be spread in food 
  • Moldy, broken-down bathrooms in detainee housing units  
  • “Overly restrictive segregation” 
    • Detainees were separated without providing proper time outside cells (only 3 days per week) 
      One facility allowed only non-contact visits, despite being able to accommodate in-person visitation. 
  • Nooses found in detainee cells 
  • Not enough medical care (or none at all) 
  • Unreported security incidents 
Two photos. One outdoor recreation yard, partially.
General population outdoor recreation yard shared by two 80-person dorm modules with partially covered roof. Observed by OIG at the Aurora facility on November 6, 2018 (left). Also, as observed by OIG at the Essex facility on July 24, 2018, mesh cages were added to glass enclosures inside housing areas to provide “outdoor” recreation for detainees (right). Source: OIG
Red placard indicating disciplinary segregation detainees must be moved in restraints at all times, compared to administrative segregation placard indicating social time approved. Observed by OIG at the Aurora facility on November 6, 2018. Source: OIG

To read the report in full, visit:

Immigrant Children with Disabilities Separated from Families 

Room full of brown-skinned youth without parents or guardians not smiling in line in a detention center. There are 3 white male guards.
South Texas Border – U.S. Customs and Border Protection providing assistance to unaccompanied immigrant children after they have crossed the border into the United States. Photo provided by: Hector Silva

According to Disability Rights California (DRC)’s report, there are over 14 thousand unaccompanied immigrant children in United States custody. This number is at an all-time high, as of November 2018. 

In California, there are nine facilities that contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to house immigrant children separated from their parent or guardian. DRC shares numerous problems with the treatment of children with disabilities: 

  • ORR does not provide children in its care with appropriate and necessary special education services.  
  • Eighty-one percent (81%) of immigrant children had been detained at the facility due to self-harming behavior, behavioral problems, or mental health diagnoses. 
  • Detained immigrant children are not given the health care services they are eligible for.  
  • There is no regulatory guidance or oversight (watchful and responsible care) to ensure that immigrant children, particularly those with disabilities, receive the supports and services they need. 

To read the report in full, visit: 

What can I do to help? 

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