According to a letter shared with Perilous Chronicle by an outside support group that is in touch with the protesting detainees, a group of approximately 40 people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Richwood Correctional Center conducted a peaceful protest by sitting in the yard on Thursday, August 4 and again on August 23.
According to the protesters, ten armed officers responded to their peaceful protest with shields and guns, forcing them to return to their unit. The group says they are now facing repression, such as shackling, retaliatory transfers and restriction of access to means of communication.
The group explained the motivation for their action in a letter (see below), which detailed the lack of communication and consideration of their release requests for up to 3 months after all required information was provided to ICE, and the lack of any accessibility and language options for those who speak, read, or write Russian, among other concerns. The group wrote:
“We also want to note that individual, each of these pain points may not be significant, but these problems combined, may turn the detention system into torture. That is, people fleeing persecution and torture in their homeland end up facing the same thing—injustice, torture conditions, terrible stress, misunderstanding and negligence. But all this is now happening in the country in which they hope to find refuge in the first place.”
The group reports that there is no Russian-English dictionary or access to online or phone translation services to translate asylum applications into English as required under quick deadline to immigration court in removal (deportation) proceedings. The group also reports that there is no way for Russian speakers to communicate with their assigned ICE deportation officer, who is the only point of contact with regard to release applications, as no officers speak or read or write Russian and there is no option for Cyrillic letters on the tablets/kiosks to which detained individuals are directed if they wish to talk to their deportation officer.Richwood-letter