UPDATE (4/5/19): The newly constituted Wyatt Detention Facility Board voted to terminate its contract with ICE and have all ICE detainees moved out within 7 days. We are awaiting more information.
The ACLU of RI has learned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun moving some detainees from facilities near the southern border of the United States to the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls. The news follows months of reports of cruelty, human rights violations, and an inhumane “family separation” policy at the hands of ICE agents and in immigration detention facilities across the nation.
ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown called it “abhorrent for Rhode Island to be participating and abetting in any way in the Trump administration’s cruel mistreatment of immigrants at the border.” News of the Wyatt facility’s involvement is of particular concern to the ACLU, given the case of Jason Ng, an immigration detainee who died tragically while in Wyatt custody in 2008.
In 2008, Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng, an ICE detainee, died in Wyatt custody following months of abuse and a lack of medical care. At the time of his death, Ng was found to have a broken spine and terminal liver cancer, but it was only because of a court order that he was taken to the hospital for that diagnosis. He died two days later. Following Ng’s death and an extensive investigation into the circumstances, the ACLU of RI sued more than two dozen officials and employees of both the Wyatt facility and ICE for “cruel, inhumane, malicious and sadistic behavior” and multiple violations of Ng’s constitutional rights. The suit led to a multi-million dollar settlement on behalf of Ng’s family. ICE also cancelled its contract with Wyatt to hold immigrant detainees, a decision that has now been apparently reversed.
“Beyond the current injustices with immigration at the national level, we have concerns about detainees being held at Wyatt. Following Mr. Ng’s tragic death, we learned that Wyatt officials abused him for months, and then blatantly lied about the circumstances of his treatment and death,” said Brown. “While the facility’s management may have changed in the last decade, we still find it deeply distressing to see Wyatt back in the business of housing ICE detainees. We are also saddened to witness a Rhode Island facility assist in the government’s mistreatment of people who are fleeing danger and seeking asylum in our country.”