Somalis Injured in Failed Deportation, UM Doctors Find, Hearing Monday

Picture of two Somali women

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 4, 2018) – U.S. District Court Judge Darrin P. Gayles will hold a hearing on a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Somali nationals and others on Monday, January 8 at 10 a.m. at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse in Miami.

The hearing will address whether the court has jurisdiction to consider the petitioners’ claim that they are entitled to a stay of removal while they seek to reopen of their removal orders.

The men and women facing deportation to Somali argue that their lives are now in danger because of the widespread media coverage of the failed December 7 flight. Many have lived in the United States for years and are Westernized, making them targets for fundamentalist terrorist violence in Somalia, says their attorney Rebecca Sharpless, director of UM Law’s Immigration Clinic.

Judge Gayles issued a temporary order on December 18, 2017, ordering a stay of deportation, and that the men and women receive medical treatment for injuries sustained during flight.

Physicians from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Human Rights Clinic of Miami examined 18 Somali nationals in immigration detention. They found many of the 92 men and women sustained injuries from being shackled at their wrists, waists, and legs for almost two days, including over 20 hours when the plane sat on the runway in Dakar, Senegal, while under the control of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

“Their stories were consistent,” said Dr. Stephen Symes, an infectious disease specialist and associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion, who examined some of the men at two detention centers. “The extreme shackling and melee that followed, injured wrists, shoulders and ankles, necks and lower backs, as immigration officers hit, pushed, and full-body restrained some.”

The men are detained at Krome North Processing Center in Miami and Glades Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Miami.

The class action lawsuit cites U.S. asylum law, which forbids the removal of individuals to countries where they would face a likelihood of persecution or torture, and seeks an order preventing the removal of the detainees to Somalia until the men and women are provided with an opportunity to determine if they are entitled to protection considering changed circumstances created by the failed deportation flight.

Of acute medical concern are two men, both longtime residents of the U. S., who had been injured while in ICE detention but were put on the flight before receiving adequate treatment. One of the men had a broken humeral bone in his right arm and the other a previously fractured hand that developed a bone infection.

“These two men suffered blows by officers on the plane, causing their pre-existing injuries during ICE detention to significantly deteriorate,” said Symes. “They now face possible loss of function in their arm and hand, including nerve damage. They have not received standard of care. They must be assessed by an orthopedic specialist urgently.”

At Glades, Symes was joined by pediatrics resident Dr. Adria Jimenez-Bacardi and medical student Luke Caleb Caddell, physician-trainees who help run the Human Rights Clinic at the medical school. The clinic provides medical attestation for victims of torture and asylum seekers.

The medical team’s findings contradict ICE’s official statement that there were no injuries on the flight. Shortly after abuse declarations surfaced, ICE told Newsweek “allegations of ICE mistreatment onboard the Somali flight are categorically false. No one was injured during the flight, and there were no incidents or altercations that would have caused any injuries on the flight.” ICE has not explained the inconsistency between its statement and the Somalis’ injuries.

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