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Civic Letter

Civic Letter

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CIVIC Letter
CIVIC Letter

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 John Morton, Director Daniel Ragsdale, Deputy Director, Office of Detention Policy and Planning Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, Deputy Assistant Director Custody Programs and Community OutreachU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement500 12th St., SWWashington, D.C. 20536David Marin, Acting Field Office Director Robert Naranjo, Assistant Field Office Director Los Angeles Field OfficeU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement300 North Los Angeles St., #7621Los Angeles, CA 90012 August 1, 2013
Re: Reinstatement of Visitation Programs at the Adelanto Detention Center, the JamesMusick Facility, and the Santa Ana City Jail 
Dear Sirs:We write in regard to the temporary suspension, or "pause," of the Friends of AdelantoDetainees program at the Adelanto Detention Facility as well as the Friends of Orange CountyDetainees at the James Musick Facility and the Santa Ana City Jail. On July 24, 2013, Jan Meslin(Program Coordinator of Friends of Orange County Detainees) received two separate phone callsfrom ICE’s Los Angeles Field Office telling her that her visitation programs had been temporarilysuspended. Later that morning, Victoria Mena (Program Coordinator of Friends of AdelantoDetainees) received a written email from ICE’s Los Angeles Field Office, stating the same. Thecontents of the email read as follows: “
Ms. Mena, the Friends of Adelanto Program has beensuspended until further notice. Please let your participants know as they will not be able to access Adelanto detainees
.”Friends of Adelanto Detainees and Friends of Orange County Detainees are visitationprograms that offer people in immigration detention a connection to the outside world throughcommunity visitation. Visitor volunteers meet with immigrants in detention during regular visitinghours on a weekly basis, and visitors know whom to visit in detention because ICE posts sign-upsheets in each of the detention facilities. Friends of Adelanto Detainees and Friends of OrangeCounty Detainees are members of the national network of visitation programs known as CommunityInitiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). CIVIC has nearly 30 visitation programs inits network, and in February 2013, ICE’s Public Advocate published an article written by CIVIC’s co-founder Christina Fialho about the power of visitation programs. CIVIC has been thankful for ICE’ssupport for visitation programs, and we hope to see ICE maintain public trust and transparency inthe greater Los Angeles area by working with Friends of Orange County Detainees and Friends of  Adelanto Detainees. Community volunteers such as those with Friends of Adelanto Detainees andFriends of Orange County Detainees are often the only consistent community connection for menand women in ICE custody because many people in immigration detention do not have familymembers nearby. As one of the only consistent links to the outside world, visitation programs canlessen the emotional toll of confinement by providing sustained community support.
CIVIC would like to chart out a common understanding with ICE so that we can continue towork together to better the lives of people in immigration detention. In order to do so, we haveoutlined what we understand so far from our conversation with Mr. Lorenzen-Strait on Wednesday,July 31. On Friday, July 26, CIVIC’s co-executive director Christina Fialho received an email fromMichael P. Reid, Senior Advisor of Custody Programs and Community Outreach at ICE, stating thefollowing:
“Christina: I am emailing on behalf of Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. We would like to discussrecent media attention regarding CIVIC's visitation programs in southern California. Would you havetime next week for a conference call Tuesday or Wednesday after 4:00 (ET)? Thank you. Mike.” 
On the July 31
conversation with Mr. Lorenzen-Strait, Christina Fialho, Christina Mansfield (co-executive director of CIVIC), Jan Meslin, and Victoria Mena were in attendance. The following iswhat CIVIC understood from the conversation:To begin, both programs were given no explanation for the suspension, but after thephone call with Mr. Lorenzen-Strait on July 31st, it seems that the suspension is a result of recent media exposure garnered by the groups and especially CIVIC’s co-executive director Christina Fialho’s blog on the Huffington Post. Mr. Lorenzen-Strait first explained that ICEwould like “a heads up that we are going to be issuing an article in the Huffington Post.” Ms.Fialho explained that she had given Mr. Lorenzen-Strait a heads up about the content of her blog, Who Is Overseeing Immigration Detention? (posted on July 22), when she met with himat UC Irvine where they discussed the various concerns volunteer visitors had about thetreatment of gay and transgender immigrants detained at the Santa Ana City Jail. She alsoexplained in that meeting at UC Irvine that she hoped the training at the Santa Ana City Jailwould comply with the eight hours of training dictated in ICE’s contract with the Santa AnaCity Jail.During the phone conversation on July 31
, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait went on to explainthat he does not want to see “blogs about petitions and hunger strikes.” This referred toanother blog Ms. Fialho wrote about a Vietnam veteran in immigration detention at the EloyDetention Center in Arizona who had gone on a hunger strike to protest his prolongeddetention (Detained U.S. Veteran on Hunger Strike at Eloy Detention Center, posted July 8)and the Change.org petition CIVIC had initiated for this veteran.Mr. Lorenzen-Strait further explained that Ms. Fialho’s blogging on the HuffingtonPost transformed her into a “media representative” as defined by Standard 7.2 of ICE’s 2011PBNDS. He further explained that if Ms. Fialho wanted to continue to blog for the HuffingtonPost, she would have to give ICE notice before she posts a blog and she and any visitationprogram volunteers would be considered “media representatives” moving forward.In order to chart out a pathway forward for ICE and CIVIC to continue workingtogether, Ms. Fialho asked if Mr. Lorenzen-Strait could provide clarity as to why the visitationprogram at Adelanto had been suspended when the articles written did not mention Adelanto. Mr. Lorenzen-Strait explained that he was not willing to talk about specificinstances because there was not one action, but rather a serious of issues that compoundedit and produced an erosion of trust and rapport at the
level. It is important to mentionhere that the visitation program at Adelanto had only been in operation for one week and ahalf before it was suspended. It also is important to mention that CIVIC’s contact at the Los Angeles Field Office, who has always been very supportive and even has gone out of hisway to assist the program, shared that this directive to suspend the programs came fromICE’s
office. Mr. Lorenzen-Strait continued to explain that the suspensions are dueto a number of issues in other states. Ms. Fialho tried to clarify the issues as it was not clear that these other issues were related to CIVIC visitation programs, but Mr. Lorenzen-Straitwas not willing to discuss these specific issues.
Mr. Lorenzen-Strait did indicate that he had reviewed posts made by Friends of  Adelanto Detainees’ leaders on Facebook and their website, quoted excerpts on the call, andasked that certain posts be taken down. Mr. Lorenzen-Strait further mentioned that thelanguage on the Friends of Adelanto Detainees’ wordpress was “not the type of vernacular that goes to trying to work with ICE” and that it is instead “the type of vernacular that erodesthe trust and collaboration.”ICE’s response to CIVIC’s media presence on blogs and other websites is deeplyconcerning. Visitation programs have always feared speaking up when they see injustices andabuses in immigration detention facilities for fear of retaliation from ICE or the facilities. In the past,CIVIC has witnessed people in detention thrown into solitary confinement and transferred away fromcommunities of support when we speak up about basic conditions and human rights abuses. Wehave seen individual visitors who have spoken up prevented from entering detention facilities, butthis is the first time we have seen ICE take the drastic step of suspending three visitation programsin their entirety.CIVIC also is profoundly concerned with the “no access list” that ICE has directed GEOGroup to create of our volunteers. On July 26
, two volunteers with Friends of Adelanto Detaineestried to visit a man who had never signed up for a visit with Friends of Adelanto Detainees. Thevolunteers had been asked by this gentleman’s family to visit him, and Vickie Mena had been visitingthis man months before the Friends of Adelanto Detainees conducted their first official visit under theprogram. When the volunteers arrived at Adelanto, GEO Group told the volunteers that their nameswere on a list and they would not be allowed past security. The volunteers were shown a copy of this list, which contained other volunteer visitor names, but were not given a copy of the list despiterequests for a copy. GEO Group instructed the volunteers to vacate the premises or GEO would callthe Sherriff’s Department.While this was happening, Christina Fialho of CIVIC called GEO Group and spoke with NeilClark, Warden of the Adelanto Detention Center and an employee of GEO Group. Neil explainedthat GEO Group follows the direction of ICE and that ICE’s National Office had directed them toprevent volunteers with Friends of Adelanto from visiting and to compile a list of the volunteers of theprogram and prevent them from passing security. Neil also explained that this list was a list inprogress, as ICE had asked them not only to compile a list of volunteers who had already visitedunder the name of Friends of Adelanto Detainees, but also a list of other individuals they determinein the future are volunteers with the program. Neil did say that he has had no problems with Friendsof Adelanto Detainees and would welcome them back as visitors if ICE approved the reinstatementof the program, but requested in the meantime that Ms. Fialho advise the volunteers to vacate thepremises or he would have to call the Sherriff’s Department. The volunteers left the premisesimmediately after this conversation.CIVIC would like to chart out a common understanding with ICE so that we can continue towork together to better the lives of people in immigration detention, especially considering our continued good relations with the jails themselves. We would like to enter into a dialogue with youand develop some parameters for visitor volunteers so that we all are operating under reasonableexpectations and understanding of one another. We’d like to request a series of meetings, ideally inperson, to develop potential policies and guidelines that both visitor volunteers and ICE arecomfortable with for visitor volunteers and local field offices to communicate concerns. As we hopeto see these conversations occur over the next several weeks, we respectfully request that in themeantime, ICE provides the following in an effort of good faith to CIVIC, Friends of AdelantoDetainees, and Friends of Orange County Detainees:1. A written statement from ICE’s National Office, stating the full reason for why thesethree visitation programs were temporarily suspended so that we can understandthese reasons and move forward appropriately; and

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