Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign castigated: Critics concerned about JA private contractor’s oversight of ICE detention centers

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The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant campaign has ignited a firestorm of protests from many concerned Americans, who are horrified by the inhumane treatment of the immigrants — especially children — and concerned over the unsatisfactory inspections of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers by a Nikkei-owned for-profit corporation.

Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who participated in a recent protest at Fort Sill (a former detention facility for Nikkei) in Oklahoma with Tsuru for Solidarity, blasted the Trump administration’s policy of imprisoning undocumented immigrants, denying refuge to asylum seekers, and ICE’s practice of separating children from their parents.

“The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect people who are fleeing danger,” the New York-based attorney stated in an e-mail.

Trump is targeting people of color, Takei declared. “Over and over again, white nationalists and organized hate groups have cheered the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies … From his notorious Muslim Ban, to his efforts to eliminate protections for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, courts have found evidence that President Trump harbors an animus against non-white, non-European immigrants.”

At each step, he added, the ACLU is suing to stop the Trump administration’s “anti-immigrant, abusive policies, including his most recent effort to massively expand the expedited removal of immigrants, his sweeping new restrictions on asylum protections, and his efforts to create fear and chaos in immigrant communities through repeated announcements of planned raids. And the full power of the ACLU is continuing to hold the Trump administration accountable in the courts, in the streets, and at statehouses across the country.”

Takei asserted that Japanese Americans, as former wartime inmates and descendants of inmates, “have a special moral authority … That means we have a particular responsibility to speak out and support the communities that are now under attack. During World War II, very few outsiders stepped up to support us when we were being rounded up and incarcerated.”

Japanese Americans have the “opportunity to provide that support to others today,” he added. “We need to take that opportunity — and increasingly, we are. This past weekend, for example, Tsuru for Solidarity marched alongside Dreamers, Native Americans, African Americans, and others to protest government plans to use Fort Sill as a concentration camp for immigrant children. Over 400 people shut down the entrance to Fort Sill.”

Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat, stated in an e-mail, “The inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at our border is simply unacceptable. As migrants flee their home countries out of fear for their lives or struggle to escape persecution, we must ensure that the treatment of these individuals rises to the standard of human decency and respect we all deserve as human beings.”

The Riverside native commented, “This Administration’s zero-tolerance, family-separation policies echo those that forced my family into Japanese American internment camps during World War II. That damage will endure for generations and we must not allow for it to happen again by tolerating this form of neglect and abuse.”

Privatized Detention Centers
Critics of the Trump’s immigration policies also castigated the administration for its heavy reliance on private contractors to maintain oversight of the ICE immigrant detention centers.

Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan independent watchdog group, revealed that a large number of detention center inspections aren’t conducted by ICE, but by the Nakamoto Group, a government contractor based in Rockville, Md. That contractor inspects about 100 detention centers every year, according to the investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

POGO reported that OIG concluded Nakamoto’s inspections weren’t thorough, and that inspectors repeatedly failed to document important issues. “Typically, three to five inspectors have only three days to complete the inspection, interview 85 to 100 detainees, brief facility staff, and begin writing their inspection report for ICE.”

After observing Nakamoto’s interviews with detainees, which were brief, conducted only in English without allowing the detainees any privacy from facility staff to speak freely about conditions, the OIG concluded, “We would not characterize them as interviews.”

National Public Radio stated that the number of those detained at ICE’s facilities reached an all-time high of 54,000, while the OIG has repeatedly criticized Nakamoto Group for cutting corners on its investigations, conducting improper interviews, and producing inaccurate reports.

Lawmakers ‘Deeply Concerned’
ICE has established standards in order to maintain hospitable conditions for both detainees and staff, Takano exclaimed. “These livable conditions must be strictly adhered to and it is the expectation that privately contracted for-profit facilities must also meet these standards. Failure to do so is not only a violation of policy, it is a violation of the basic human rights these detainees should be afforded — and our taxpayer dollars should not be used to enrich these for-profit institutions that infringe on these rights.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with 10 other Democratic senators, sent a letter last November expressing “deep concern” and urged Nakamoto to respond to problems raised in the OIG report. “We are particularly concerned that OIG found your company’s inspections of these facilities — which are supposed to ensure safety and quality standards are met — are potentially misrepresenting conditions in these facilities or underreporting violations.”

“Since 2007, ICE has awarded your company $55 million total, and the current contract has a potential award of an additional $16 million,” Warren’s letter noted.

According to the Los Angeles Times, company president and owner Jennifer Nakamoto, who often credits her family’s experience in World War II Japanese American concentration camps with influencing her company’s mission, replied to Warren that the OIG “didn’t understand the complexities of people held in prison-like centers,” and questioned the government inspectors’ qualifications.

Jennifer Nakamoto declined to comment for this article, explaining via e-mail that contractual stipulations prohibit discussions with media.

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