Human Rights and Immigrants’ Rights Organizations Sue ICE And GEO Group For Physically Assaulting and Abusing Immigrant While Detained

Washington, D.C. – Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), and The Bronx Defenders sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the GEO Group, a private prison company, under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Angel Argueta Anariba, a 46-year-old Honduran immigrant who has lived in the United States since 1998. Mr. Argueta Anariba was detained by ICE for over seven years. During that time, he spoke out as a relentless self-advocate and participated in multiple hunger strikes to protest his mistreatment and the inhumane conditions in ICE custody. In response, ICE and the GEO Group swiftly retaliated against him by placing him in solitary confinement, subjecting him to constant verbal abuse, and physically attacking him. While detained at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, Mr. Argueta Anariba was violently assaulted by officers, leading to a severe shoulder injury that has caused long-term pain and disability.

“For seven years, I resisted my unlawful detention through complaints, peaceful protest, and even going on hunger strike, despite my health conditions. ICE responded each time with violence, solitary confinement, and denying me access to my medications – anything to silence me about their abuse and violation of my rights. I won my freedom, and now, I’m suing them. This lawsuit isn’t just for me. It’s about holding ICE and GEO Group accountable so their reign of terror ends,” said Angel Argueta Anariba.

“ICE’s own policies forbid retaliatory practices,” Sarah Decker, staff attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights said. “Despite this, Pine Prairie officials consistently met Angel’s efforts to advocate for himself with violence and abuse. ICE’s unlawful retaliation culminated in a physical attack that left him with a torn ligament in his shoulder, chronic nerve damage, and a long-term disability.”

Mr. Argueta Anariba fled Honduras in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane that destroyed his home and livelihood. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1998, later celebrating the birth of his son and establishing a career in carpentry and construction. In 2014, after serving several years at a New York state prison for a prior conviction, Mr. Argueta Anariba was detained by ICE, beginning a seven-year saga that would ultimately include 17 transfers across the country.

Between 2020 and 2022, Mr. Argueta Anariba was detained at two facilities under the jurisdiction of the New Orleans ICE Field Office – Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi and Pine Prairie in Louisiana. At both facilities, Mr. Argueta Anariba was denied access to his medically prescribed diet and subjected to medical neglect. When he engaged in a peaceful hunger strike to protest these conditions, he was locked in solitary confinement for 24 hours a day with the water to his cell cut off.

On March 17, 2022, while taking Mr. Argueta Anariba to solitary confinement, Pine Prairie officers physically attacked him. Despite Mr. Argueta Anariba’s compliance with all instructions, officers handcuffed him and began violently dragging him towards the cell. An officer then threw him to the ground, severely injuring his shoulder and tearing a ligament. Mr. Argueta Anariba is still dealing with nerve damage from his injury. He has lost feeling in the fingers in his right hand and is unable to hold or grasp anything using that hand.

“Angel’s story is emblematic of a broader culture of abuse within the New Orleans ICE Field Office,” said Yulie Landan, Justice Catalyst Fellow at the National Immigration Project. “For years, detained individuals and their advocates have raised the alarm about the consistent inadequacy of medical and mental health care, inhumane living conditions, and frequent instances of violence and retaliation.”

“As public defenders, we know that the blatant abuse, assault, and retaliation against Angel was not a fluke – it is built into the culture and practice of immigration detention in the United States,” said Elyssa Williams, Supervising Attorney in the Immigration Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders. “Now that Angel is free and with his family, his courage to defend the rights of others and prevent anyone else from enduring the same horrors he did is inspiring, and we are proud to support his effort to hold the US’s massive deportation machine accountable.”

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

About the National Immigration Project

The National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) is a membership organization of attorneys, advocates, and community members who are driven by the belief that all people should be treated with dignity, live freely, and flourish. We litigate, advocate, educate, and build bridges across movements to ensure that those most impacted by the immigration and criminal systems are uplifted and supported. Learn more at Follow NIPNLG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @NIPNLG.

About The Bronx Defenders

The Bronx Defenders is a public defender nonprofit in the Bronx that has developed a groundbreaking, holistic model of legal representation, providing systems-impacted individuals with teams of lawyers, social workers, and advocates dedicated to addressing their unique circumstances, radically transforming how low-income people are represented in the legal system. The Bronx Defenders is also a founder of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the first public defender program in the nation for detained immigrants, and through which it has represented Angel Argueta Anariba.