Congressman Keith Ellison

Representing the 5th District of Minnesota


Rep. Ellison to ICE: Investigate Mistreatment of Somali Detainees

Dec 21, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about reports that 92 Somali nationals had been beaten, restrained, deprived of food and water, and forced to urinate on themselves while in ICE custody on a plane in Senegal.

The text of the full letter reads as the following:

"Dear Secretary Nielsen, Acting Director Homan, Inspector General Horowitz, and Acting Inspector General Kelly:

I represent the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota, home to the largest community of Somali-Americans in the country. Constituents contacted me to express grave concern about alleged human rights abuses of 92 Somali nationals while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in transit through Dakar, Senegal from December 7 to December 9, 2017. I request a detailed account of the 48 hours ICE attempted to deport these individuals, including all actions ICE intends to take involving the detained individuals, as well as ICE officers and supervisors involved in the matter. I also request ICE delay the deportation of all individuals on this flight who have pending legal reviews of their cases, or who wish to submit complaints of mistreatment while in U.S. custody.

Reports from the media, attorneys in my district, and family members of loved ones have highlighted a grave disrespect for human dignity and federal law. While on the tarmac for nearly a day, detainees were deprived of adequate food, water, and access to a working bathroom, forcing many to defecate on themselves or urinate in bottles in the presence of other detainees. One detainee with diabetes was refused medical attention and forced to remain seated and in restraints for well over 10 hours while the plane was grounded. This resulted in his appendages becoming so swollen that he could not deplane without physical assistance several hours later. It was also reported that some detainees were punched in the face by ICE agents and that one detainee was choked, despite all of them being restrained at the wrists and ankles.

These reports are profoundly disturbing and represent a tremendous violation of the civil and human rights of detainees. I ask that ICE provide a detailed account of the full 46 hours that these detainees were in transit, including:

  • Why did the plane return to the U.S.?
  • Why were individuals with medical needs not allowed accommodations for their health, such as the detainee with diabetes who was not given access to his medication?
  • What disciplinary actions will be taken against the ICE officers who struck and choked detainees or otherwise used excessive force during the tarmac delay, given that all detainees were wearing restraints and could not pose a threat to the officers?
  • Why are individuals with pending legal review of their cases being deported?
  • How many individuals were the subject of signed deportation orders?"