Muslims observing Ramadan at Tacoma ICE center aren’t receiving timely meals, immigration advocates say


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The month of Ramadan is a time of holy celebration, but some Muslim people held at the privately run Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma say they aren’t being given clean clothes daily, nor timely meals before and after fasting.

Naeem, a 52-year-old man being held at the Northwest ICE Processing Center, “expressed that for the past 10-12 days of Ramadan, food has not come on time, which is vital for him as he has diabetes,” according to a statement put out last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Washington chapter (CAIR-WA). The Seattle-based civil rights organization represents Muslim communities across the state.

“Detained people retain their constitutional rights to freely exercise religion,” said Amanda Azad, CAIR-WA’s deputy executive director. “In the case of Ramadan, fasting being delayed or [being] denied meals before or after fasting is a health issue as well as a religious issue.”

RELATED: Human rights group raises alarm about use of force, chemical weapons at Tacoma ICE center

Since 2005, the Northwest ICE Processing Center has been privately operated by GEO Group, Inc. under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Advocates have long expressed concern over the effects of the facility’s privatization on matters of transparency and accountability.

Azad said CAIR-WA sent a letter addressed to Northwest ICE Processing Center Warden Bruce Scott, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security about the alleged failure to accommodate people observing Ramadan but only received a response from the Department of Homeland Security. In an email obtained by KUOW, a spokesperson for the agency said ICE officials “would be in contact with the facility … to remedy the situation.”

In a statement provided to KUOW, a Geo Group spokesperson said “GEO rejects these politically motivated and baseless allegations. As a service provider, we adhere to the federal government’s Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) and provide religious accommodations for individuals of all faiths in accordance with these standards. This includes the provision of meals that accommodate religious customs in compliance with the detailed federal standards on Food Services.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to KUOW’s requests for comment.

Earlier this month, the Northwest ICE Processing Center came under renewed scrutiny after Charles Leo Daniel, a 61-year-old detainee from Trinidad and Tobago, was found dead at the facility. Daniel had spent several years prior to his death in solitary confinement, according to a report published by the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights.

RELATED: Police find man dead at Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma

In an email, La Resistencia founder Maru Mora Villalpando said the grassroots immigrant rights group has “phone lines for people detained to call and report … conditions at the detention center.”

Ramadan continues until April 9.

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