On the heels of the last presidential debate—in which Trump flippantly dismissed his administration’s cruel and inhumane decision to separate immigrant children from their parents for the crime of being non-white and seeking asylum in America—there are now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are torturing detained immigrants from Cameroon as part of a move to mass deport them ahead of the election.
According to The Guardian, lawyers for Cameroonians immigrants detained in Mississippi say many of their clients have been choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed by ICE agents using torture to force the detainees to sign their own deportation papers.
The stories from the many Cameroonian immigrants who have been recently deported are harrowing, and demonstrate a telling similarity to the violence often meted out to home-grown Black people in America at the hands of agents of the state.
From The Guardian:
One of those involved, identified by the initials BJ, said that on 27 September, Ice officers “pepper-sprayed me in the eyes and [one officer] strangled me almost to the point of death. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I almost died.”
“As a result of the physical violence, they were able to forcibly obtain my fingerprint on the document,” BJ said.
Another detainee, known as DF, said that he was ordered to sign his deportation order by an Ice agent on 28 September.
“I refused to sign. He pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras,” DF said. According to his account, he was then taken to a punitive wing of the Adams county centre, known as Zulu, and subjected to further assault.
“They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck. While in Zulu, they did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture,” he said. DF was one of the detainees on the 13 October flight to Douala. It is unclear what has happened to him since.
A third detainee, CA, said he was forced to the ground, sat on, handcuffed and pepper-sprayed. “I was crying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ because they were forcefully on top of me pressing their body weight on top of me. My eyes were so hot ... I was dragged across the ground,” he said. “The officers told me to open my eyes. I couldn’t. My legs and hands were handcuffed. They forcefully opened my palm. Some of my fingers were broken. They forced my fingerprint on to the paper.”
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Ironically, most of the Cameroonian migrants had traveled to the U.S. in order to escape being detained and tortured by government security forces in Cameroon targeting English-speaking citizens there.
Instead they’ve been caught in another web of state violence, as ICE appears to be rapidly increasing its deportations ahead of election day in November.
“The abuse we are witnessing, especially right now against black immigrants, isn’t new, but it is escalating,” Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), told The Guardian.
It’s likely not a coincidence that these abuses against immigrants are happening as we get closer to the possibility of Trump—who notoriously described as “shitholes” the countries in Africa and the Caribbean where Brown and Black people often migrate to America from—being booted out of the Oval Office.
The Cameroonian embassy in Washington D.C. has made no comment on the reports that their nationals are being tortured in the U.S., nor has the U.S. government.
ICE has only said in response that they, “provide safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody.”
That’s clearly the empty party-line that this administration has chosen to elide acknowledging its cruelty and inhumanity when taken to task about the concentration camp strategies currently being employed against non-white immigrants across the country.
“They’re in facilities that are so clean, they’re so well taken care of,” Trump said at Thursday night’s debate, after he was repeatedly asked about the fate of the over 500 Hispanic and Latino children who were stolen from their parents by the U.S. government and detained in cages—some of them babies who were reportedly being cared for by other minors in detainment.
One thing is for sure: America can no longer lay claim to being a world leader when it comes to human rights and due process. That’s if it ever honestly could.