Weekly Spotlight: Damning secrets made public

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Editor’s Note: Weekly Spotlight is off next week for Labor Day. We will be back on Saturday, September 9. Enjoy the long weekend!

You may remember that back in February POGO won our very first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The court-ordered win came after a nearly five-year legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility reports that the government refused to release.

Six months later, we’re able to share what we have found. We obtained reports from the DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), which contracts with experts to investigate civil rights complaints made against the DHS. The experts’ reports offer a more detailed perspective on what is happening in the detention facilities than we usually get through the CRCL’s public-facing summaries.

The records we obtained provide disturbing accounts of deficient medical care, improper use of solitary confinement, massive failures in sexual violence prevention and response, racism, and “extremely dirty” and unsanitary conditions.

The findings are upsetting and damning. Our struggle with the DHS to even gain access to these findings underscores the need for greater transparency at and stronger authority for the CRCL, so that the office can continue to bring the truth to light.

DHS’s Secret Reports on ICE Detention

Previously confidential reports confirm poor medical care, prolonged use of solitary confinement, mistreatment of transgender individuals, shortcomings in sexual assault prevention and response, and inaccessible services in immigrant detention.

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“The approach that they’re taking is, ‘The president’s corrupt. He’s accepted payment. And we’re going to prove it.’ ... You shouldn’t come up with that determination until the end when you have the actual facts to support the conclusion.”

Tim Stretton, Director of the Congressional Oversight Initiative, in the Messenger



“I imagine they are squinting really hard to read that language to mean because the earmark isn’t explicitly paying for her salary, then it isn’t a financial interest.”

Danielle Brian, Executive Director, in Boston Globe


“This is taxpayer money, and a lot of it. ... There should be accountability that follows it.”

Sean Moulton, Senior Policy Analyst, in Associated Press


“I think that particular hearing was honestly dangerous to trans teenagers, and children, and their families. ... [It] really is a disgraceful use of Congress’ oversight powers.”

Tim Stretton, Director of the Congressional Oversight Initiative, in the Messenger