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Filing a Complaint

What should I do if a loved one is being treated badly while in ICE detention?

The detainee should report any incident of abuse, harassment, or discrimination to detention staff immediately.  If possible, it may be helpful to create a log or record of the times the mistreatment occurred, and exactly what happened each time.   If a dispute arises as to what actually happened, this log may be helpful as evidence to show that the detainee’s rights were violated.

The detainee or his or her representative should also file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL).  The OCRCL will review the complaint, and may launch an investigation to determine if any violations have occurred.  If the OCRCL makes a finding that the detainee’s civil rights have been violated, the OCRCL can make formal recommendations to provide relief to the individual and institute a change in policy.

Immigration Equality also periodically files complaints to combat detainee abuse, so please contact our legal staff if you or someone you know is experiencing problems in detention related to being LGBT or HIV-positive.  Your input is critical in ensuring that our advocacy efforts are geared toward the implementation of optimal policies for LGBT and HIV-positive people in detention.

How do I file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on behalf of a loved one who is being mistreated in detention?

You can either use the official OCRCL complaint form, or write a letter describing the mistreatment.  The instructions and complaint form are online.  In addition to a written description of the specific circumstances, the complaint should be accompanied with contact information, relevant documents, a summary of other steps taken.  If you are submitting a complaint on behalf of a loved one, you must also submit that person’s express written permission for the OCRCL to share information with you.
Email the completed form to rcl@dhs.gov, or mail it via U.S. Postal Service to
Department of Homeland Security
Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Review and Compliance
245 Murray Lane, SW
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, D.C. 20528.

My partner’s health or safety is in immediate danger due to his or her treatment in detention.  Is there any way I can make an urgent complaint?

Beginning in 2011, OCRCL started a “short-form” procedure for processing complaints in order to fast track those complaints that are extremely urgent and/or require minimal investigation.  Individuals with “short-form” type complaints should complete the same complaint form as those with standard complaints.  Although OCRCL complaints sometimes lead to improvement in individual cases, it is important to note that OCRCL’s primary function is to implement large-scale policy changes to protect civil rights on a broader scale.
Another option is sending an email to DHS’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at DHSOIGhotline@dhs.gov.  The OIG can investigate individual complaints of abuse in detention and depending on their resources, may respond more quickly if the situation is urgent.