Border Patrol and ICE Routinely Violate Immigrants’ Religious Rights

One pork sandwich every eight hours for six straight days. That’s the only food that Border Patrol provided to Adnan Asif Parveen, a Muslim immigrant who was detained in South Texas in January because his work permit had expired and was pending renewal. Mr. Parveen reportedly informed officials that his religion forbids him from eating pork, but they didn’t care. All he could eat were the slices of bread from the sandwich.

Mr. Parveen’s experience was not an isolated incident. While President Trump and his administration have repeatedly proclaimed their commitment to religious liberty, in practice, this has only translated to religious freedom for some. Detained immigrants are apparently not among them. Detained immigrants from various faiths — Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians — have reported incidents in which Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement brazenly violate their religious-freedom rights.  

Take, for instance, Border Patrol’s treatment of Christians. Despite the agency’s “Religious Sensitivity” policy, which directs officers and agents to “remain cognizant of an individual’s religious beliefs while accomplishing an enforcement action in a dignified and respectful manner,” officials have seized rosaries from Catholic immigrants. One janitor found so many rosaries discarded by Border Patrol officials that he was able to create and photograph an entire collection of them. Immigrants have had their Bibles confiscated at the border, including Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist men represented in a lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU.

The situation is no better for immigrants detained across the country by ICE, which frequently denies them access to clergy, worship services, religious texts, religious diets, and an appropriate place to pray. For example, according to a report released this month by Disability Rights California, immigrants detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center — the largest ICE jail in California — have been denied adequate “access to religious texts related to their faith or in their language.”

And a lawsuit filed a few weeks ago by Muslim immigrants detained at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida details how they have been denied adequate prayer services, copies of the Quran, religious headwear, and religiously compliant diets. When asked by one detained immigrant why Muslims were treated so disfavorably, the chaplain replied, “Boy, you’re in Glades County.”

Immigrants detained by ICE last year at federal prisons faced similar conditions. In Sheridan, Oregon, Sikh asylum seekers were forced to pray next to dirty toilets. When the men were denied turbans, they tried to wear towels or t-shirts on their heads during prayer, only to have guards rip them off.

In Victorville, California, Presbyterian, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu immigrants detained at a federal prison were not allowed to attend worship services or participate in any group prayer or religious study. One immigrant was even admonished for singing hymns to himself in his cell. Immigrants there were also denied religious headwear and access to religious texts, such as the Bible and the Quran.

This sort of treatment is not just morally reprehensible, it’s against the law. Federal statutes provide heightened protections for religious exercise. This extends to immigrants and incarcerated individuals, who are especially vulnerable to neglect, mistreatment, and other abuses. That’s why we’ve sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, calling on its Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to launch a thorough investigation and take action.

Unlike some of the countries from which these individuals are fleeing, the United States was founded on the belief that everyone is entitled to religious freedom. ICE and Border Patrol must stop making a mockery of our most cherished principles by denying immigrants the fundamental right to practice their faith.

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Anonymous

Yeah, it's not jail....its a detention center. They're not prisoners....they are illegal immigrants. And they're not just Muslims, they're also Christians. You racist piece of #@%!.

Anonymous

Karen Laffery you should read the history book I mean really read them with open eyes. This country had no moral or compassion and never will. If Reagn all the others presidents had their ducks in a row this country wouldn’t be in mess. Thank to Democratic and republican parties never working with same thing that is work for the AMERICAN CITIZENS and put in place strict immigration laws and have E-VERFY in every state and start charging room and board to illegal aliens. American taxpayers is responsible to send money to support others countries which if they let come to America the government should not send any more money. Make these responsible for own and there people. People like you need to help them out in their own countries help them with birth control and sex education to young people instead have 1 to 10 kids But of course you have no guts to do that because of your blind hatred for trump is leaving you blind. And get over it Clinton didn’t win. The people vote for trump and you can thank all illegal aliens,dreamers and Obama for TRUMP.

Anonymous

Do you think that they could use those as weapons to hurt themselves or the guards?

Anonymous

Use what? Books? Beads? Headwraps? Seriously, what CAN'T be used as a weapon? Since there seems to be no regard for their religious freedom or their dignity, to say nothing of their humanity, why not just strip them naked and pull out their teeth and fingernails, if "things they can use to hurt the guards" is your main concern?

Anonymous

Did you read the comment I did not just say the guards. I said the prisoners can harm themselves. I want to protect Americans citizens they are more important than the illegal aliens.

Anonymous

If they want freedom fight for their freedom instead of running away like cowards that they are. Can they pay for food,medical services or does the American taxpayers have to pay. ? They demanded everything but they don’t have the money to pay.

Anonymous

If U.S. Attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice don’t have the motivation or wherewithal to prosecute federal officials breaking laws, then we need a new agency that will. We need a federal agenc that will prosecute federal officials.

Anonymous

They would have to break the law first. Right now liberals just cry because they don't like it. Vegetarian is a valid option for Muslims and is readily available - they just want more expensive halal meat choices. Also, the government has the right to reject personal items - including personal religious items like bibles and rosaries. They can access the bibles in the facily libraries if they are available. If not, the illegal can purchase or get one donated as the government is not responsible.

Anonymous

They weren't offered vegetarian options. They were given pork sandwiches and had to pick off the meat themselves. JFC, no one is saying to give them a 5 star meal, but religion is a constitutionally protected class.

So many disgusting people here. It's no longer hyperbole to compare Americans to Nazis.

Anonymous

Then why are they here?

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