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UNLV law school clinic report alleges mistreatment of immigration detainees at HDC

Directors say instances of coercion and restricted access to legal resources reported

Fatma Marouf, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the UNLV Boyd School of Law , addresses Henderson City Council, Nov. 19, regarding a report alleging mistreatment of immigration detainees at the Henderson Detention Center. Photo by Buford Davis | THP
November 21, 2013
Compared to many detention centers in the country, HDC is in many ways on track. However we did find violations of ICE's policies. – Fatma Marouf

People held at the Henderson Detention Center as immigration detainees have been subjected to mistreatment, according to a UNLV Boyd Law School Immigration Clinic report released Nov. 19.

The report is based on interviews with 29 individuals who were current detainees beginning in February. Many of these subjects reported what clinic co-director Fatma Marouf says are policy violations by detention center staff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel. Nine subjects said they felt coerced into signing important documents they did not adequately understand, five reported delayed legal mail, sometimes opened prior to delivery, and eleven said they were subjected to racial slurs or demeaning threats by ICE officers during transport to or from the facility.

"We believe that the problems identified in our report are quite fixable," Marouf told the Henderson City Council, Nov. 19. "Compared to many detention centers in the country, HDC is in many ways on track. However we did find violations of ICE's policies, such as access to legal assistance and legal resources, verbal abuse, including some derogatory language and access to medical care."

Marouf spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, in which anyone is allowed to speak for up to three minutes on any topic, rather than as an invited presenter.

"Thus far we have heard nothing (from HDC or ICE) disputing the contents of the report. In fact, the report is largely consistent with a 2011 report ICE did itself," she said.

The Henderson Detention Center currently incarcerates more immigration detainees than any other facility in the state, with a capacity to hold 300 individuals. The city registers a profit of around $5 million annually from the federal contract.

Marouf told the council that the Clinic requested a meeting with HDC officials beginning in October, but were told to meet with ICE officials instead.

"Some (alleged violations) are simple fixes," Marouf told the council, "and others may involve more long-term strategies, such a monitoring and training of the staff."

"We're reviewing the report and are speaking with ICE about it," said Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul, who noted that the center has remedied problems revealed by past inspections regarding immigration detainees.

"We want to maintain a safe and respectful environment for all inmates, immigration detainees and also the officers who work very hard and very professionally."

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