by Miriam Gerace and Ruthie Epstein
Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed one of the so-called Dream 9 – nine young men and women who were brought to the United States as children, without documents, and who recently staged a bold public action when they re-entered the country from Mexico, again without documents, knowing that they would likely be detained immediately upon arrival by U.S. immigration agents. On the Rachel Maddow Show, Lulu Martinez described her experience of being held in solitary confinement for 8 days at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona – punishment, she said, for providing information, with another Dream 9 woman, about a free legal hotline to her fellow detainees, and for encouraging them to “chant and speak out against injustices that were happening in the detention center.”
Typically, solitary confinement completely isolates immigration detainees: They are generally confined to a small jail cell for twenty-three hours a day, with little to no human contact, and a slot in the door through which officers pass their meals. In some Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, their one hour of daily “rec” time takes place in a human-size cage or in a narrow concrete yard outdoors behind high concrete walls. The maximum time “per violation” that ICE can hold a person in solitary is 30 days, although ICE can also put a person in solitary confinement indefinitely for other reasons; UN experts have said that more than 15 days in solitary can constitute torture.