U.S. Sen. Cory Booker Credit: Public Domain photo

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct a review of incidents of mistreatment of Black migrants within the U.S. immigration system, especially incidents related to the shackling of people who are pregnant and post-partum.

“Black migrants suffer from disparate treatment, discrimination, and racism at every phase of the immigration system – including when they are being deported to their country of origin, most times without being given the chance to seek asylum,” wrote Senator Booker in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, and Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller. “A September 2022 Amnesty International Report found that Haitians removed under Title 42 were detained in ways that “amount to ill-treatment and in some cases torture, either to coerce them to give up their claims or to deter other asylum seekers.” One psychologist estimated that two-thirds of families removed to Haiti were shackled or chained at some point during the removal process. Multiple Haitian migrants interviewed for the report said they were shackled either while they were pregnant or breastfeeding. One woman who was nine months pregnant was shackled by CBP agents and carried onto a plane to be removed. The treatment described in these reports is disturbing, horrific, and un-American.”

Senator Booker also pointed out these inhumane treatments of migrants by CBP and ICE personnel are contrary to the agencies’ guidelines.

“It also appears to conflict with CBP and ICE’s own guidelines on shackling and the use of chains during deportation. CBP’s standards require that restraints during detention are used “in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, and professional.”  Additionally, restraints cannot be used “in a punitive manner or in a manner than causes detainees undue pain.” According to ICE’s National Detainee Handbook, officers may only use force “after all reasonable efforts to otherwise resolve a situation have failed” and “physical force or restraining devices will not be used as punishment. International law is clear that countries may not shackle or handcuff pregnant people or people immediately after childbirth… We continue to believe that a holistic review of the disparate treatment of Black migrants throughout our immigration system is both necessary and urgent,” continued Senator Booker.

Senator Booker and his colleagues also requested DHS, ICE, and CBP clarify their existing practices regarding shackling of migrants, and particularly pregnant migrants, in detention.

The letter is cosigned by: Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

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