Of the over 600 undocumented immigrants who were arrested in mass workplace raids across Mississippi this week, approximately 400 could be detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in Louisiana, BuzzFeed News reported.
One of the facilities where a number of the immigrants reportedly will be detained is the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie where the outlet reported earlier this month that 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed following a peaceful demonstration in the facility’s courtyard.
ICE officials did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the plans.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News this week, Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, described the pepper spray incident as “brief” and “calculated.” The incident occurred just one day after 30 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at an ICE facility in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, to “deescalate” a “small disturbance around lunchtime.”
According to lawyers for several migrants at the facilities, however, the conditions in the detention centers are far worse than has been reported: The total number of immigrants pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie facility was in fact over 100, a legal representative with the Southern Poverty Law Center told The Independent. And a prior NBC News report revealed officers had allegedly detained at least one transgender migrant in isolation for four months, “because of the way [she] looked.”
Others have suffered equally dire fates.
The SPLC reported in April that, in addition to arbitrary solitary confinement, migrants at Pine Prairie were allegedly being held in “deplorable” conditions. Among other things, detainees were forced to consume “barely edible food,” and were kept in “foul” smelling, moldy rooms. Some have been held in the barbed-wire-encircled processing facility for months.
At the Bossier Parish facility, things are no better, migrants say. “There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them,” one man told attorney Lara Nochomovitz — who represents detained immigrants at the facility — in a text message obtained by Mother Jones earlier this month.
“There’s even an ambulance here. Help us please this is ugly,” he added.
Both incidents seem to have stemmed from hunger strikes by migrants at the facilities, Mother Jones reported. Currently, there are multiple active hunger strikes across the county in a number of ICE detention facilities, signaling to watchdogs that conditions in ICE facilities are worsening.
Louisiana is becoming ground zero for the expansion of U.S. immigration detention. ICE is continuing to spend money that has not been allocated to them in order to open up more detention facilities there.
This year alone, three for-profit detention facilities began operating in Louisiana. Those facilities have the capacity to hold about 4,000 people, expanding ICE’s presence in the Deep South by 50%.
This story has been updated with new details and sourcing.