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

Does the left think that these people are harmless? Do they have mental health illness? Do they have TB, measles, mumps? Do they have medical issues? Are murders, sexual abuser,child abuser or sexual abuser abuser? Can you please answer these questions?

Anonymous

By that logic we should detain anti-vaxxers and their kids because they pose a health risk to the general public.

Anonymous

What about people with mental health illness shall we hold them responsible for their illness?

Anonymous

I have put a comment about native Americans religion I didn’t see it.

Anonymous

As a religious person myself, you don't need any of these so called religious articles. These people failed to recognize their faith is in their heart. They were tested by God. The word of God is more powerful than anything. As far as Muslims, they fail to recognize that they could have removed the pork and are the bread alone. In addition they can eat pork - they choose not to.

1 meal every 8 hours is justified because from a spiritual perspective it is called Fasting.

These people were tested and have failed.

Anonymous

So ICE is supposed to be the tester of faith of adherents?

Anonymous

Why does the ACLU only care about religious rights when it suits their narrative?

Anonymous

They shouldn't have come here illegally. Kick them all out!! We're tired of supporting all these illegal alien leeches.

Bruce K. Dixon

Though there undoubtedly are some bad actors out there (there always is), I suspect that much of this is hearsay designed to further the ACLU's desperate search for victimization. My journalism experience tells me to take second and third-hand accounts with skepticism.

Anonymous

One day people from other countries will realize that the American dream died long ago. They come here seeking something better than what they're leaving behind. Poverty, corruption, racism, an unhealthy addiction to firearms (which has lead to cops killing people, people killing each other, children anxiety stricken to attend schools, survivors of gun violence committing suicide due to our), healthcare for profit system. The USA may have wealth, which is held by fewer than 5% of our total population. There is a ruling elite here that have no humanity or compassion if they can't find a way to profit from it.
An immigrants best hope would be to attempt to fix their county, as we need to do here ourselves. What we need here is a new revolution. Take the reigns of our country back.

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