Thursday August 20, 2020
By Rafi Schwartz
Two civil rights groups this week accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at Miami's Krome Service Processing Center of forcing Muslim detainees to choose between eating pork, which is forbidden for traditionally observant Muslims, and religiously approved halal meat that had passed its expiration date and turned rancid.
In a letter addressed to ICE's Miami field office, as well as the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General Office, civil rights groups Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigrant Justice claimed that "ICE officers at Krome have repeatedly served pork or pork-based products to Muslim detainees, contrary to the detainees’ sincerely held religious belief that they are forbidden from consuming pork."
"Muslim detainees have been forced to accept these meals, because the religiously compliant or halal meals that ICE has served have been persistently rotten and expired," the letter said, adding that "ICE has continued to serve these rotten halal meals for over two years even after the detainees notified prison officials that the meals were inedible."
On its website, Muslim Advocates shared pictures of the expired halal meat, allegedly shared by a detainee in the facility. According to the group the food "expired August 2017 and was served in December 2017."
But perhaps more alarming than the allegation that the "several dozen" Muslim detainees at Krome have been forced to choose between their faith and their health is the charge that the chaplain at the facility dismissed complaints about the rotten halal meat, offering the particularly Trumpian excuse of "it is what it is."
This is not the first time ICE has been accused of explicitly discriminating against Muslim detainees. In 2018 a group of Somali men housed at Florida's Glades County Detention Center asserted that ICE officials had "unreasonably hindered individuals from observing the holy month of Ramadan by denying individuals access to the Ramadan list and by also providing inedible and insufficient quantities of food to those who fast." The group, also represented by Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigrant Justice, later sued the various county and federal officials who managed the facility.
In their letter, sent on Wednesday, the civil rights groups demanded not only that ICE rectify the food situation at the detention center, but that the agency also "train, supervise, and discipline all personnel involved in this systematic denial of detainees’ rights at Krome."
In a statement to Mic, an ICE spokesperson denied the allegations, saying that "ICE’s Performance Based National Detention Standards cover all aspects of detention, to include reasonable accommodation of religious dietary practices. Any claim that ICE denies reasonable and equitable opportunity for persons to observe their religious dietary practices is false."