Muslim ICE detainees report mistreatment


"U.S Supports Freedom Of Religion" by U.S. Pacific Fleet is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

On board the aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Abdul N. Alassan practices the Islamic faith during a prayer service held in the ship’s mosque. As immigration detention centers face controversy on the conditions that their Muslims inmates are being kept many worry about the continuation of violating religious rights.

Krome detention center located in Miami has faced accusations that state Muslim detainees are being forced to choose between eating expired halal foods or meals that contain pork. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claims that due to the coronavirus pandemic regulations have been put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities, in other words detainees are not allowed to choose the meals in the cafeteria.

Civil rights organization Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigration Justice explains in a letter to the U.S Department of Homeland Security, that the right of these detainees were wrongfully violated. Consuming pork goes against the Islamic religion and many agree that these actions go against the detainees First Amendment, guaranteeing religious rights, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“For a government to not respect an individual religious beliefs, and purposely make them engage in activities that are considered bad, or in arabic it’s called haram, is completely baffling because even if they are detainees, they’re still just as human as the rest of us are,” Muslim senior Jena Kahok said.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a policy set in place that prohibits any agency, department, or official of any branch of the United States government to significantly ”burden” one’s rights to exercise their religion, only under the circumstances that the “burden” placed on the person’s practice is a need for “governmental interest” and is done in the least intrusive way. Muslim Advocates highlighted this in the second section of their letter, where they also cited numerous cases that emphasize the protection these detainees have while being held in these facilities. 

“It seems as if when there are issues where it involves Muslims being harmed or being put in harm’s way, no one wants to talk about it, it’s just sad that us, as Muslims are raised on faith and support for other people, we don’t feel that same love and support from other people,” Kahok said. 

This is not the first time that ICE has faced allegations of mistreatment towards Muslim detainees. Just last year a lawsuit was filed against Glades County Detention Center for similar issues where detainees were served inedible meals and denied religious articles, such as Qur’ ans, prayer rugs and head coverings.

During this pandemic it has been especially difficult for detainees to keep themselves safe from COVID-19, for this reason it is especially hard for these people to receive the correct meals they need while also socially distancing from others. Immigration inmates at Krome detention Center also claim that the center has not provided access to masks, gloves and other preventions for the virus.

“I don’t believe it [the Covid-19 outbreak] was a valid excuse at all because these centers have been a thing way before the coronavirus was a thing. They want people to believe that it’s because of corona, since more and more people have been talking about it as quarantine started,” Kahok said. 

Trials are still being awaited for both of these cases, yet it is said, due to the current conditions, the date for these hearings may be pushed back. Until then many are still worried about the well-being of these detainees and if post-pandemic conditions will remain the same.

As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across the United States, many are concerned that the civil rights of immigrants and people of color continue to be violated, and although efforts are on their way to fixing these issues, advocates of change say it’s long overdue.  

“It’s just sad because people have these false thoughts and beliefs about us, when in reality, our entire religion is built upon peace and love,” Kahok said.