Immigrant advocates are concerned that another round of asylum seekers from Cameroon may soon be deported from a North Texas detention center, a month after dozens of Cameroonian and Congolese migrants were already deported.
The first deportation flight took off from Alliance Airport in Fort Worth on Oct. 13. Advocates said several of the asylum seekers on board had recently filed a complaint, alleging they were physically abused and forced to sign deportation papers at a detention center in Mississippi. They were then transferred to Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, half an hour south of Fort Worth, and eventually deported.
“After that flight took place, we began to still hear complaints from people in detention, particularly at facilities in Louisiana, that they were being forced to have their deportation order signed,” said Rebekah Entralgo with the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants. “If they asked any questions about having their lawyers present, they were not given that opportunity.”
On Nov. 5, Freedom for Immigrants, Southern Poverty Law Center and several other groups filed a new complaint on behalf of six more Cameroonian asylum seekers held in Louisiana.
“Of those six, four have been transferred to Prairieland,” Entralgo said. “We believe that, from what we’ve heard from their attorneys, the people in detention have been told that there is likely another flight scheduled for some time this week.”
Asked about the potential deportation flight, a spokesperson with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement said for security reasons, the agency “does not provide advance notification of its removal schedules.”
Amnesty International has asked the U.S. government to halt deportations to Cameroon, saying returnees risk jail, torture and even death. The country faces ongoing conflict between the French-speaking government and English-speaking minority.
Entralgo said some of the asylum seekers flown out in October have gone into hiding and two were immediately jailed in Cameroon.
She noted that Black immigrants face disproportionately high deportation rates, and also expressed concern about a pattern of retaliation against people who experience or witness abuse in immigration detention.
In September, the U.S. government deported a Mexican woman who said she was sexually assaulted by guards at the El Paso Processing Center, and whose complaint is still under investigation.
Officials are also attempting to deport several women who said they were abused by a gynecologist at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Six former patients who complained about the doctor have already been deported.
Mallory Falk is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Mallory at Mfalk@kera.org. You can follow Mallory on Twitter @MalloryFalk.
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