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ICE forces Muslim detainees to choose between expired food or pork, advocates claim

ICE has been accused of discriminating against their Muslim detainees by repeatedly dismissing requests for halal meals.

ICE forces Muslim detainees to choose between expired food or pork, advocates claim
Image Source: ICE Agents Detain Suspected Undocumented Immigrants In Raids. CAMARILLO, CA - OCTOBER 14. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

At a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Krome, Florida, Muslim detainees have claimed that they have on several occasions been served pork or pork-based food. Eating pork, which is considered a non-halal food, goes against the religious beliefs of Muslims. In addition to this, the detainees stated that they often choose to eat the pork anyway as the halal foods offered to them were "persistently rotten and expired," CNN reports. According to Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigration Justice, this has been an issue at ICE facilities for over two years now, but the ongoing public health crisis has worsened the issue.



In a letter addressed to ICE leadership as well as numerous federal oversight agencies, the advocacy group estimated that there were several dozen Muslim detainees at the Krome facility who believe that it is religiously impermissible to consume pork. In one atrocious incident, a chaplain at the facility dismissed the detainees' requests for help, stating, "It is what it is," Nimra Azmi, a staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, said in an interview with CNN. "The detainees are frustrated, rightfully so, that something as simple as being able to get meals that are edible for them and religiously compliant for them [is] not being attended to," she stated. "I think that they particularly feel that they're just being ignored, that ICE is being dismissive, that nobody cares."



Prior to the pandemic, Muslim detainees were able to choose their own meals in the cafeteria and therefore avoid any food items that included pork or pork-based products. In this manner, they were also able to avoid the halal meals if they were spoiled. However, ever since the start of the pandemic, the facility has been serving all its detainees pre-portioned and pre-plated meals. The pre-plated meals include pork at least two to three times a week, Muslim Advocates confirmed. This means, according to the advocacy group's letter, that the detainees are unable to exercise the basic freedom of choice between a spoiled halal meal or a meal with pork.



This is not the first time ICE has come under fire for denying their detainees the simple religious liberties that should be guaranteed to them. As per a lawsuit filed by the same group last year, Muslim detainees at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida were discriminated against by having their prayers interfered with and by being denied their religious articles. This in addition, of course, to being forced to eat religiously-compliant meals. Aleksandr Sverdlik of the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief for the American Civil Liberties Union wrote last year, "This sort of treatment is not just morally reprehensible, it's against the law. Federal statutes provide heightened protections for religious exercise. This extends to immigrants and incarcerated individuals, who are especially vulnerable to neglect, mistreatment, and other abuses."



At present, ICE has claimed that it is looking into the matter by investigating the specific allegations raised in the letter. A spokesperson for the agency told CNN, "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."


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