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Hundreds of illegal immigrants detained at an ICE facility in Georgia were held in mold-covered rooms, served cold meals, faced insect infestations and received substandard medical care, according to a new audit of the inspector general published on Wednesday.
The Folkston Treatment Center and Folkston Annex were also understaffed, did not respond to grievances quickly, and misplaced inmates’ belongings, forcing them to leave the facility without retrieving phones, watches, and even the money they had when they arrived, Homeland Security said the inspector general.
The report was a biting account of conditions at a time when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is battling critics who say the detention system needs a full reboot.
Investigators carried out an unannounced inspection late last year and found that Folkston provided adequate access to legal services and the pro bono work scheme. But the audit revealed a long list of problems with the facility and its operations.
“Based on our observations, the facilities at Folkston were unsanitary and dilapidated, with torn mattresses, water leaks and standing water, mold growth and water damage, dilapidated showers, mold and debris in the ventilation system, insect infestations, lack of access to hot showers, an inoperable toilet, an inoperable thermometer display on a kitchen freezer, and an absence of hot meals,” the investigators reported.
An inmate showed investigators midges living in his bedroom sink drain.
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Another room had a sign revealing an ant infestation, with a warning not to put inmates there. Investigators said they found ants in other rooms where inmates were held.
Investigators said medical staff also failed to provide timely care, the facility failed to meet standards for responding to inmate grievances, and handcuffs were used on some inmates in defiance of policies. of the ECI.
ICE’s 130 detention centers hold migrants awaiting hearings before immigration judges and migrants who have been ordered deported and are awaiting travel documents and flights to complete the removal .
Folkston averaged 374 inmates a day in 2021.
The audit comes as ICE’s facilities come under scrutiny. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has already closed two facilities he said were providing substandard care to inmates, including one in Irwin County, Georgia, about two hours from Folkston.
Mr. Mayorkas has pledged to close other facilities that do not meet his standards.
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Immigrant rights campaigners questioned why Folkston had remained open, saying conditions there were worse than in Irwin, which was closed.
ICE, in its official response to the report, says investigators showed up in Folkston just as two of the facility’s five water heaters had failed, explaining the lack of hot water. This was corrected at the end of the four day inspection.
Jason Houser, ICE chief of staff, said showers that investigators flagged as problematic were already scheduled to be fixed, but took months.
ICE also said it rushed to fix broken plumbing, caulk all windows and clean mold from vents.
The facility hired a psychologist to provide weekly telehealth visits to inmates, promised better follow-up to medical appointments, and pledged to better handle complaints. ICE has also promised to abide by its rules on handcuffs.
“ICE remains committed to ensuring that non-nationals in its care reside in safe, secure and humane environments and in appropriate containment conditions,” Houser wrote.