To DOJ: Investigate DHS officials for Federal Crime of Conspiracy Against Rights in Family Detention

REQUEST TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Investigate DHS for federal crimes of Conspiracy Against Rights; Kidnapping; and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law Against Lilian Oliva Bardales and her 4-year-old son in Family Detention.

As originally posted on AMJOlaw.com:
by Bryan Johnson on July 6, 2015

For Immediate Release

Contact: Bryan Johnson, Bryan@amjolaw.com, 631-647-9701                                           July 6, 2015

REQUEST TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Investigate DHS for federal crimes of Conspiracy Against Rights; Kidnapping; and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law Against Lilian Oliva Bardales and her 4-year-old son in Family Detention. 

In the afternoon of June 3, 2015, our client Lilian locked herself in her dormitory bathroom, wrote a suicide note, and then attempted to kill herself by cutting her wrist with her broken U.S. government-issued identification card.

From June 3 to the day Lilian and her son were deported to Honduras on June 9, two or more DHS and GEO officials made a plan and executed it: she and her son would be deported even if it meant committing federal crimes.

From June 3 to June 5, Lilian was forced to strip all of her clothing, wear a straitjacket,  remain locked up in a solitary confinement cell, and forbidden to see her son or meet or speak with an attorney. She was also deprived of any meaningful mental health treatment.

The request below, sent by email on July 3 and by U.S. mail today, lays out the facts as told by Lilian and other direct witnesses to the events of June 3 to June 9.

An investigation into the events of June 3 to June 9 must take place. In order for this to happen, DHS must parole Lilian and her son back into the United States.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

July 4, 2015

Robert Moossy Jr.

Section Chief, Criminal Section

Civil Rights Division

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

RE: Request For Investigation into Possible Federal Crimes of Kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1); Conspiracy Against Rights 18 U.S.C. § 241; and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, 18 U.S.C. § 242.

Dear Honorable Mr. Moossy Jr.:

We represent Lilian Yamileth Oliva Bardales (A # 206-769-267) and her son, Christian (202-127-486), who are 19 and 4-years-old, respectively. We hereby request that the Criminal Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division appoint special counsel to investigate the actions of one or more officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the GEO Group, Inc from June 3, 2015 to June 9, 2015 that resulted in severe physical and mental suffering of Lilian and her son as well as their removal from the United States without any due process of law.

We also request that the U.S. Department of Justice demand that DHS immediately parole Lilian and Christian into the United States so that a thorough investigation can be conducted.

Facts

Lilian and her child were removed from the United States on June 9, 2015 after being detained for over 8 months at the Karnes County Residential Center (“KCRC.”) The following information was obtained through several direct telephone conversations between the undersigned and Lilian, as well as with other direct witnesses to the events.

In the afternoon of June 3, 2015, Lilian locked herself in her dormitory bathroom, wrote a suicide note, and then attempted to kill herself by cutting her wrist with her broken U.S. government-issued identification card.

One of her roommates found her in the bathroom bleeding and called for help. Several GEO officials, including at least one nurse, came to see what happened. Another GEO official brought a handheld video camera and recorded the encounter with Lilian. There was not a significant amount of blood.

Lilian was immediately brought to small cell within the medical unit, which is a series of rooms wholly separated from the general dormitories at the KCRC. Her wound was disinfected and covered with a bandage. GEO officials ordered her to remove all of her clothing. She refused initially, but GEO officials threatened to rip her clothes off if she did not do it herself. GEO officials stated that the removal of her clothing was for her own safety. Lilian was then ordered to put on a straitjacket, which severely restricted her range of movement and ability to sleep over the next 2 days. When she was first transferred to the isolation room, officials told her that there were rules to be followed and that she needed to learn to follow them.

She was not at any point transferred to a hospital for treatment.

Lilian was isolated in this small cell with a straitjacket until the evening of Friday, June 5. A GEO official observed her for the entirety of her stay there through a window at the entrance to the cell. The lights remained on at full power for her entire stay in the cell. She asked GEO officials to turn off the light but her request was denied. She barely ate anything in those two days. The only meal provided to her—spoiled ham sandwiches—was inedible.

The only nutrition she received in those 2 days in the isolation cell was a pear and some juice. Although Lilian did not want to eat any of the food given to her, she relented when GEO officials warned her that she would not see her son if she did not eat. In those two days, Lilian barely slept due to the severe cold; discomfort caused by the straitjacket, which had no insulation to prevent loss of body heat; and the bed made of plastic that “felt like a rock.”

Lilian did not receive any mental health treatment in the isolation cell. She did not see a mental health professional until after 7 am on June 4. She was brought to another medical isolation room where a Spanish-speaking woman, purportedly a psychiatrist, appeared via internet video. The “treatment” provided was an interrogation. The woman on the video asked Lilian why she hurt herself, that it was not right, and that an attorney told her to do it to herself. When Lilian denied that anyone had told her to harm herself, the woman became more aggressive, demanding further to know who had instructed Lilian to hurt herself and warning her that she could not change the decision of immigration by what she did.

Lilian responded by telling the woman that she did not know the problems that the families have in detention and that she had been in jail with her son for 8 months. “You have not suffered what we have here,” Lilian told her. The woman responded, “I understand, but you will not be helped if you try to kill yourself, you will not change your fate. We will give you medicine. This medicine is only for you to relax, so that you do not feel sad.”

Lilian was not given any medicine until the morning of June 6, a Saturday. From there, she took one additional pill in the evening and again twice the following day, June 7. The only effect the pills had was to make her sleepy.

The nurses brought Lilian to her son’s room, which was also in the medical unit. He was sleeping when she entered his room. When he woke up, the first thing he asked was for was a bath. He smelled bad because he had been washed for 2 days. He wanted a bath and asked that his teeth be brushed immediately, because the women he was with had not cleaned him or anything but changed his clothes. His dirty clothes were in a pile on the ground in his room. Christian asked his mom if he could eat something from the commissary, such as soup, but Lilian told him that she could not go there because they were not in their normal room.

After only one hour with Christian, Lilian was directed to leave her son’s room and return to hers. She heard her son crying and crying. Before she left for the night, Christian begged his mom so he could sleep with her. Before her suicide attempt, Christian slept in the same bed with his mother in their dormitory room. One night, she yelled out to him and asked why he was crying. Christian said that he was sad because the woman who was watching him left. Christian reported to his mom afterwards that he was left alone at night for long periods of time, and a nurse came to check on him every so often.

On June 4, 2015, ICE officials brought an official from the Honduran consulate to speak to Lilian. In the conversation with the Honduran official, Lilian asked for her help in getting out of the isolation room. Lilian did not request that the official issue travel documents for her removal to Honduras. Around the same time, several ICE officials came to the room and asked her how she felt. She told them that she was doing badly, and what they were doing to my child and me was wrong. The same officials asked her whether she had any family in the United States. She responded that she did not. However, she also informed ICE that she had family friends in Brentwood, New York that were willing to care for her and her son if she was released from detention.

Lilian was barred from meeting any of her attorneys from June 3 to June 9, despite her numerous requests to do so. Her only communication with an attorney, Fatima Menendez, was for a brief 10 minutes on or about June 5. In that conversation, Fatima told Lilian that GEO and ICE claimed that she was receiving medical treatment. Fatima further told Lilian not to sign anything.

One of her attorneys, Javier Maldonado, was prepared to file a petition for review and emergency stay of removal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Lilian and Christian’s behalf. However, his requests to meet with her were summarily denied from June 3 to June 9. He could not file any paperwork with the 5th circuit because the documents necessary to do so were in Lilian’s possession.

On June 7, all phone access was cut off at approximately 4 pm, according to a detained mother who is now released. The same witness reported that the internet access was also cut off at around the same time. When the mother asked GEO staff why the phones were not working, she was told it was a maintenance issue.

Phone access was not restored until 10 am on June 8, 2015, after Lilian and the three other families had already been transferred out of the KCRC to the motel 6.

On June 4, 2015, I asked Mr. James De La Cruz, a Senior Federal Field Specialist Supervisor in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Children’s Services Program, whether DHS had transferred any unaccompanied minor children from the KCRC to ORR custody in the last 24 hours. I followed up this request in writing through e-mail.

Mr. De La Cruz inquired regarding Christian with ICE’s Juvenile Family Residential Management Unit (JFRMU), the entity in charge of transfers of UAC’s to ORR custody. On June 8, 2015, I followed up with Jacqueline Du Puy, ORR’s Lead Intakes Program Specialist, to determine if DHS ever responded to their inquiry regarding Christian. She wrote back: “We have followed up with DHS and have not heard anything.”

On June 8, ICE officials took Lilian and her son from KCRC at approximately 5 am and were then transferred to a Motel 6 with 3 other Honduran families. Lilian did not know that she was going to be removed until this exact moment. When she realized she was going to be deported, she collapsed. ICE officials told her that she would be taken tied up if necessary and then she would lose her son if she did not cooperate. At the Motel 6, ICE officials stood guard outside of her room while she and Christian were detained inside a room for the entire day.

In a conversation with Deportation Officer Gabriel Pacheco, the undersigned inquired into why Christian was not transferred to the custody of HHS given that he was an unaccompanied minor. Mr. Pacheco responded that he had been “close” to his mother. However, Christian had no contact whatsoever with his mother for 3 complete days and then only 2 hours out of 48 hours in the last two days he was detained at KCRC.

ICE’s conduct towards Christian differs significantly from what occurred in a similar case of a woman and child, who are also clients of the undersigned. In the other case, a young mother, Bernice, was detained in the South Texas Family Residential Center (“STFRC”) in Dilley, Texas, with her 4-year-old daughter. On March 5, Bernice attempted to kill herself by swallowing a bottle of shampoo after learning her bond would not be lowered and that she and her child would continue to be detained.

That same day, Bernice was transferred to a local hospital for treatment and observation. From the hospital, Bernice was transferred to the Laredo Detention facility, an adult detention facility. DHS referred her daughter for transfer to ORR custody on March 7, 2015 at 7:50 pm, and she was subsequently transferred to a foster home under ORR custody on March 8.

ICE followed its own procedure by transferring Bernice to a hospital for treatment because that she attempted to take her own life. ICE also complied with statutory law by transferring her daughter to ORR custody within 72 hours.

On June 8, I sent a request for the immediate stay of removal of Lilian and Christian to Andrew Lorenzen Strait, Deputy Assistant Director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”) branch; Enrique Lucero, the Field Office Director of ICE ERO in San Antonio; Norma Lacey, an assistant to Mr. Lucero; Richard Rocha, a communications advisor with ICE ERO Headquarters; Scott Shuchart; Senior advisor to DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; Juanita Hester; Assistant Field Office Director to ICE ERO in San Antonio; and Deborah Achim, Assistant Field Office Director to ICE ERO in San Antonio.[1]

On June 9, 2015 at 3 am in the morning, ICE officials took Lilian; her son, and the other families from the motel room and placed them on a bus. She and several other Honduran families were then driven to a remote airstrip, forced to board a plane, and then flown back to Honduras later in the morning of June 9.

ICE’s Public Claims Regarding Lilian and Christian

ICE officials made several statements to the press regarding Lilian’s case in her last days in the United States. On June 4, 2015, in a statement made to the general pool of journalists, an ICE spokesperson issued the following statement: “An adult resident housed at the Karnes County Residential Center for U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is being observed by mental health professionals onsite who confirmed that the minor injury was not life-threatening, but that the help of specialized mental health care providers was appropriate…ICE is closely monitoring the situation and continues to investigate the circumstances. ICE will determine the next steps for the resident’s child who also resides at the facility.”[2]

On June 9, 2015, An ICE official wrote in an email to the Huffington Post stating that Oliva and her son had been deported and that “all of her legal appeals before ICE the Executive Office of Immigration Review and the Board of Immigration Appeals.” The official also conceded that ICE only permitted Lilian to speak with an attorney once in the last 6 days before removing her from the United States.[3]

On June 17, 2015, ICE again reiterated Lilian that “Lilian received proper medical attention after the incident, including mental health care.”[4]

Applicable Laws and Regulations

Section 4.5 of ICE’s family residential standards require ICE to transfer a person who appears an imminent danger to her own life to a hospital for medical treatment. “if danger to life or property appears imminent, the medical staff has the authority to isolate and transfer the resident from the general population to the nearest hospital.” The section goes on to state that “observation of imminently suicidal residents by medical or residential staff shall be one-to-one until the resident is transferred or released by the medical authority.”

18 U.S.C. § 241, Conspiracy against rights, states that if two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States…they shall be fined…or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

Lastly, 18 U.S.C. § 242 states that any person, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States…shall be fined or imprisoned not more than one year.

Lilian was not transferred to a hospital for medical treatment after she tried to kill herself. ICE officials took extraordinary precautions that contradict its claims that medical isolation for 5 consecutive days prevented her from meeting with any of her attorneys.

ICE demanded that Lilian remove all of her clothing, including her underwear. Presumably, the removal of clothing was to prevent her from using anything to hang herself with. In addition to stripping her, ICE took even more extreme measures by placing Lilian in a straitjacket, which limited her mobility and caused sleep deprivation or 2 consecutive days. If her clothing was removed and she was under 24 hour one-to-one observation, there was no need to take such extraordinary and restrictive measures, which in any setting would cause a patient at suicide risk to deteriorate in their condition.

Two or more officials in DHS made an agreement the moment that Lilian cut her wrist: she and her son would be immediately removed even if it meant intentionally depriving her of numerous fundamental rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, including her 5th amendment right to procedural due process; her right to adequate medical treatment; nutrition; and shelter, all derived from the 5th amendment; and her 8thamendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

Given that the principal reason that Lilian attempted to kill herself was due to her and her son’s prolonged detention, the appropriate and required action under ICE’s own regulations was to transfer her to the nearest hospital for treatment and observation.

If she were transferred to a hospital, she would not have suffered severe physical and mental pain as a result of ICE’s retaliatory conduct. In fact, in the instance of Bernice, a client of the undersigned who attempted to kill herself in early March of this year, DHS adhered to its own policy: she was immediately transferred to a hospital outside of the detention center in Dilley for medical treatment.[5] Once she was no longer deemed a risk to harm herself, she was transferred back to DHS custody.

Lilian was entitled sufficient medical care, food, and shelter. She was also entitled to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. ICE’s conduct against Lilian after she attempted suicide constituted punishment—she was separated from her son, placed in a straitjacket, and deprived of all contact with anyone but GEO or ICE officers for 3 consecutive days in a frigid room. At the end of those 2 days, she was again held in isolation but allowed to see her son one hour per day for approximately 2 days.

ICE’s intentional deprivation her of her 5th amendment right to counsel in removal proceedings and removing her from her sleep in pre-dawn operation further supports her allegation that ICE’s conduct was primarily to punish her. Insofar as ICE has claimed their actions were for Lilian’s own well-being, it was only to ensure that ICE would be immune from further negative publicity in the event that she attempted to kill herself again.

From June 3 to June 9, 2015, ICE officials denied numerous requests by her attorneys to meet with her in person and also denied Lilian’s multiple requests to meet with her attorneys.

Even assuming Lilian was capable of filing the complicated legal work to reopen her removal order or file a petition for review and emergency stay of removal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, she was barred from doing so because she was imprisoned in the isolated medical unit within the KCRC.

According to Fatima Menendez, ICE’s justification for denying these requests was because Lilian was in a severely bad shape from her attempted suicide and needed medical attention.

However, ICE claimed that it did not deprive Lilian of her right to counsel because she was allowed to speak with attorney Fatima Menendez for approximately 10-15 minutes on the phone on June 5 out of the 6 days that she was disappeared into the confines of two rooms within the KCRC. When Fatima arrived at the KCRC she was denied access to Lilian because GEO staff said she was under medical observation. Fatima was then told by an ICE official that Lilian would be in medical isolation because there was so much blood when they found her.

Attorney Menendez was only allowed to speak with Lilian after she questioned why the Honduran Consulate was allowed to see her. ICE allowed Fatima a phone call with Lilian, during which Lilian told Fatima she had only received minimal care, was very cold because she was only wearing a robe, and she had not seen her son in two days.

The reason that attorneys most needed to have direct access to her was because Javier Maldonado, who agreed to file a petition for review with the 5th circuit court of appeals, needed a copy of the BIA decision to file with the petition. Attorneys also needed to engage in detailed consultation to determine Lilian’s wishes for representation. However, this was categorically prevented because two or more officials already concluded that she would be removed from the United States no matter what.

CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST CHRISTIAN

The federal crime of Kidnapping, 18 USC § 1201(a)(1), is committed when a person unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or caries away and holds…any person and then willfully transports that person in interstate or foreign commerce in furtherance commission of the crime. The federal statute does not require that the defendant to have intended or committed another offense in addition to the initial unlawful confinement and subsequent carrying away.

8 U.S.C § 1232(c)(2) requires DHS to transfer unaccompanied minors to the custody of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) within 72 hours of initial apprehension, except in the case of exceptional services.

An unaccompanied alien child is defined in 6 U.S.C. 279(g)(2) as any child who (A) has no lawful immigration status in the United States; (B) has not attained 18 years of age; and (C)with respect to whom—(i)there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.

The moment that Lillian attempted to kill herself, she was no longer available to provide care and physical custody of Christian. Furthermore, Christian was completely separated from his mother for a minimum of 2 consecutive days. In those two days, Christian’s mother did not provide any care or physical custody for her son.

ICE was obligated to refer Christian for transfer to the custody of HHS as soon as his mother was unable to provide any form of care or custody for her son. Even after 2 days, Christian remained an unaccompanied alien child under the law. ICE permitted Lilian to spend one hour on June 5; one hour on June 6; and one on June 7 with her son attempt to circumvent its obligations under federal law to transfer Christian to the custody of HHS within 72 hours of the effective date of initial apprehension (when he was physically separated from his mother.)

What Lilian learned on June 6 further supports the fact that Christian was unaccompanied: he was not bathed for two consecutive days. GEO staff members, who are not licensed to provide for care of children, took custody of Christian. The fact that Christian was not bathed, or allowed to play with any of the other children in the facility, or allowed to see his mother, show that ICE intentionally disregarded the federally mandated laws to transfer children to the custody of HHS, which provides for licensed 24/7 residential care for a child of Christian’s tender age. He was also left alone for long periods of time at night and only periodically checked on by nurses throughout the night. He was a boy all alone in a solitary confinement cell in a secure jail designed for adults.

Given that DHS did not respond to an affirmative inquiry from ORR regarding a child alleged to having been unaccompanied in the KCRC, it is clear DHS did not even attempt to initiate the process to transfer Christian to ORR custody.

Two or more DHS and GEO officials conspired to violate Christian’s right as an unaccompanied minor to be transferred to the custody of HHS solely for the following purpose: to ensure his and Lilian’s removal from the United States. If Christian was transferred to HHS custody, a live witness to their crimes would have been left inside the United States and outside of the control of DHS.

Given the foregoing, I believe several officials at the Department of Homeland Security and GEO Group participated in the federal crime of kidnapping with respect to Christian and Conspiracy Against Rights and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law against both Lilian and Christian. An investigation must take place to determine who is responsible

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. If you have any questions or would like to speak with our clients please contact us at 631-647-9701 or through e-mail at Bryan@amjolaw.com.

Very Truly Yours,

________________________                                    ____________________________

Ala Amoachi, Esq.                                                      Bryan S. Johnson, Esq.

Amoachi and Johnson, PLLC                                     Amoachi and Johnson, PLLC

1918 Union Blvd.                                                       1918 Union Boulevard

Bay Shore, NY 11706                                                 Bay Shore, NY 11706

(T) 631-647-9701                                                       (T) 631-647-9701

(F) 631-647-9705                                                       (F) 631-647-9705

CC:      The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.  20528

Sarah Saldaña

Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

500 12th St., SW

Washington, D.C. 20536

John Roth

Inspector General

Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane, SW

Washington DC, 20528

Timothy Moynihan

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Office of Detention Oversight (OPR)

950 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Suite 200

Washington, D.C. 20536

Kenneth Magidson

United States Attorney

Southern District of Texas

1000 Louisiana, Ste. 2300

Houston, Texas 77002

Megan H. Mack

Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane, SW

Washington DC, 20528

[1] See attached e-mail printouts.

[2] Family detention center rocked by suicide try, release of pregnant detainees, McClatchy Washington Bureau, June 4, 2015, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article24785320.html

[3] Mother who attempted Suicide in family detention center is deported, Huffington Post, June 9, 2015.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/09/mother-suicide-deported_n_7545934.html

[4] Teen mom who attempted suicide speaks out after deportation, Mcclatchy Washington Bureau, June 17, 2015,

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/immigration/article25186393.html

[5] “Soul-Destroying” one migrant mother’s story of life at Dilley Detention Center, The Guardian, May 22, 2015,

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/22/immigrant-mothers-dilley-family-detention-center-texas

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