On April 22, a riot broke out at the Mira Loma immigration detention center in Lancaster, Calif., which holds nearly 1,000 immigrants. The riot allegedly involved the South Siders and Paisa gangs, according to a detainee who spoke with the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department fired tear gas grenades at the detainees; additional deputies came to the detention center from nearby Lancaster and Palmdale stations to assist the guards with separating detainees.
The riot was diffused “within minutes,” said Steve Whitmore, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. At least 10 immigrants were taken to a local hospital and treated for minor injuries, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Virginia Kice. Two detainees suffered serious, though not life-threatening, head injuries during the riot and were taken to a local hospital, Whitmore said, and about 20 other detainees suffered minor injuries. No deputies were injured, said Whitmore.
Detainees who spoke to the Daily Journal as the riot unfolded said the fight broke out after a deputy allegedly opened a gate allowing gang members into an area that housed rival gang members. Sheriff’s Department and ICE personnel spent much of the night interviewing detainee witnesses, and some who instigated the riot may be prosecuted on criminal charges, authorities said. Kice said a federal team was dispatched to conduct an in-depth investigation into the riot. “We believe the original altercation was gang-related,” Kice said.
On April 23, ICE began moving dozens of detainees from the Mira Loma facility to undisclosed facilities. Whitmore said on April 23 that 50 detainees involved in the riot had been identified as gang members and had been bused to other federal facilities. Whitmore would not say what gangs those detainees were affiliated with or which gangs were involved in the riot. Officials said the men would be transferred to detention centers in the western US. “We are moving people based on interviews conducted by ICE officials and sheriff’s deputies,” said Kice. “We are taking a zero-tolerance policy. We want to send a strong message that this kind of action is not appropriate.” More than half of the immigrants transferred were Salvadorans moved to a downtown Los Angeles staging area. Reports circulated that some detainees were being deported. “If someone has a final order of removal and we have travel documents, then we are in the process of removing them,” said Kice. (Los Angeles Daily Journal, April 24; Los Angeles Times, April 24)
Attorneys representing some of the detainees said they had little information about the pending transfers. “My client was taken to downtown Los Angeles for processing,” said Nikhil Shah, a Los Angeles immigration lawyer who represents a Salvadoran man. “If my client is moved he would not be able to see his family,” Shah said. “He would be penalized for something he didn’t participate in, endorse or start.”
In December, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $10 million plan to expand the Mira Loma facility just days after a detainee was killed while operating a jackhammer. The US Department of Homeland Security agreed to pay the county $51 million to house 1,400 immigrants. Mira Loma does not house detainees with serious medical issues or convictions for violent crimes. (LA Daily Journal, April 24)
Food poisoning at Arizona detention center?
On April 23, more than 80 immigration detainees at the Eloy Detention Center in central Arizona began suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. The Pinal County Health Department says it’s unclear what caused the health problems, but is studying samples to find out. The detention center has closed its kitchen and is getting food from the nearby Saguaro Correctional Center. The center is also working on disinfecting the facility and “urging detainees to practice good hygiene,” according to Associated Press. (AP, April 24)
From Immigration News Briefs, April 27
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