Public Statements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Advocates Call for Closure of Georgia Immigration Detention Centers Following Two Immigrant Deaths Last Week
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Atlanta, Georgia – Immigrant rights and human rights organizations, Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Project South and the Detention Watch Network demand the mayor of Atlanta, the County Commissioners of Stewart County, and the County Commissioners of Irwin County immediately close the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC), the Stewart Detention Center, and the Irwin County Detention Center, following the deaths of Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel and Jean Carlos Jimenez-Joseph at ACDC and Stewart. Groups also demand an end to all contracts between the City of Atlanta, Stewart County, and Irwin County with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  

On Monday, May 15th Jimenez-Joseph, 27, was found unresponsive after spending 19 days in solitary confinement at the Stewart Detention Center.  ICE is reporting the death as a suicide.  Following requests from the mother of Jimenez-Joseph, members of El Refugio, an organization that provides hospitality to loved ones visiting those detained at Stewart, attempted to visit Jean Carlos, but were turned away citing the conditions of his solitary confinement.  Just one day later, on Tuesday, May 16, Patel, 58, died in ICE custody at Grady Memorial Hospital after his detention at the Atlanta City Detention Center.  ICE has reported that the preliminary cause of death is complications from congestive heart failure. Additionally, on May 12, 2017 US District Judge Leslie Abrams issued an order allowing ICE to force-feed Vitaly Novikov, 61, who ICE reports has been on hunger strike.

These tragic events come on the heels of a recent report, Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigration Detention Centers, released by Project South and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, that investigates the deplorable conditions at the Stewart Detention Center and Irwin County Detention Center.  The findings of the report and recent investigations into immigration deaths provide overwhelming evidence that these facilities are not equipped to handle the vast mental and physical needs of those they incarcerate, and should therefore be shut down immediately to avoid further harm to immigrant communities across the country.

“The deaths of Jean Carlos Jimenez-Joseph and Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel are an unfortunate illustration of the poor medical treatment, misuse of isolation, deplorable health conditions and the unnecessary detention of persons looking for a place of refuge” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of GLAHR.

“As our year-long documentation demonstrated, Georgia immigration detention centers are rife with human rights abuses including the rampant use of solitary confinement, minimal access to mental health care, and inedible food.  These facilities must be shut down before we see even more horrific tragedies unfold,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director with Project South.

“ICE did not exist until March 2003.  14 years later, US taxpayers waste billions of dollars each year on failed systems of detention and deportation that violate the basic human rights of people who come to this country to build a better future.  These facilities must close and ICE should be dismantled,” said Kevin Caron, Member of the Georgia Detention Watch Steering Committee.

“The tragic case of Jean Carlos Jimenez-Joseph provides a stark representation of the larger mental health issues, medical issues and solitary confinement at detention centers,” said Lovette Thompson of Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “No one should be subjected to discrimination and deplorable conditions that violate their fundamental human rights.”

“This fiscal year alone, there have been eight deaths in ICE custody — a shameful record further exposing ICE’s inability to guarantee the safety and health of people in their custody,” said Danny Cendejas, DWN’s organizing director. “This is a matter of life or death — facilities where people have died in detention need to be shut down as a first step towards ending the inhumane detention system in its entirety.”

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Georgia Detention Watch (GDW) is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocate, alongside immigrants, to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state.  Our coalition includes activists, community organizers, lawyers, and persons of faith.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.

The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) educates, organizes, and empowers Latinos in Georgia to defend and advance their civil and human rights. Established in 2001, GLAHR is a community-based organization that develops statewide grassroots leadership.

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) believes that a thriving multiracial democracy requires racial, social and economic justice for all. African Americans and black immigrants are stronger together and we can win by becoming leaders in the fight against structural racism and systemic discrimination. BAJI was formed to bring Black voices together to advocate for equality and justice in our laws and our communities.

Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We have been working with communities pushed forward by the struggle for over 30 years– to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation.