Muslim detainees at a federal immigration facility in Florida have been repeatedly served pork or pork-based products, which goes against their religious beliefs, according to legal and civil rights advocates.
The groups allege that Muslim detainees at the Krome detention facility in Miami have been forced to accept pork because the “religiously compliant or halal meals that ICE has served have been persistently rotten and expired.”
Expired halal meals have been an issue for over two years, but the situation for the detainees at the facility was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigration Justice.
In one instance, the chaplain at Krome’s dismissed requests from the Muslim detainees for help, saying, “It is what it is,” Nimra Azmi, a staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, told CNN.
There are approximately several dozen Muslim detainees at Krome who believe that it is religiously impermissible to consume pork, the groups said in a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement leadership and federal oversight agencies.
In the past, detainees would choose their own meals in the cafeteria, and were therefore able to avoid pork if the halal meals were spoiled. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the facility has been serving pre-portioned and pre-plated meals. This change has meant that detainees either had to choose between a spoiled halal meal or a meal with pork, according to the letter.
At least two to three times a week, the pre-plated meals include pork, the groups said.
“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 are not being attended to,” Azmi said. “I think that they particularly feel that they’re just being ignored, that ICE is being dismissive, that nobody cares.”
Azmi said that she reviewed notes and letters from the detainees describing the conditions inside the facility.
ICE is investigating the specific allegations raised in the letter, according to an agency official.
A spokesperson for the agency told CNN that “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.”
ICE has previously been accused of infringing on religious liberties of its detainees.
A lawsuit filed last year by the same groups, alleged that Muslim detainees at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida had prayers interfered with, were deprived religiously-compliant meals and were denied religious articles.
“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,” wrote Aleksandr Sverdlik of the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief for the American Civil Liberties Union last year.