Thompson, Bass to ICE: Stop Deportation Flight to Cameroon Now
(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demanding it stop its plans to deport over 200 Cameroonian asylum seekers. Recent allegations have been raised that some of these individuals were coerced into signing documents effectuating their removal. Questions about the validity of travel documents have also been raised and warrant further review.
On October 7, 2020, eight advocacy groups submitted a complaint to ICE, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, and the DHS Office of Inspector General detailing the accounts of eight Cameroonian asylum seekers at the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Mississippi. According to the advocates who interviewed the eight detainees mentioned in the complaint, ICE and contract employees deployed pepper spray, physical restraints, and other use of force measures to obtain the signature or fingerprint of detainees on travel documents for their removal from the U.S. Advocates also stated that this is not an isolated incident and believe similar incidents to have occurred at other facilities within ICE’s New Orleans Field Office Area of Responsibility. If confirmed, these accounts would not only violate ICE’s detention standards, but also the law.
The complaint also questions the validity of travel documents obtained for the Cameroonian detainees. According to reporting, travel documents ICE obtained last month for a Cameroonian detainee were deemed invalid by the Cameroon Embassy in Washington, D.C. While it is unclear whether the travel documents for the 200 Cameroonians slated for removal are similarly affected, these are serious allegations and must be investigated thoroughly.
Again, we urge you to halt the removal of Cameroonians until a fair, thorough, and transparent investigation into the allegations outlined in this very troubling complaint is complete.
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Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978