As Ramadan Draws to a Close, Florida Detention Center Silent on Muslims’ Right to Observe Holy Month

Washington, DC – The following are statements from Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigrant Justice regarding the lack of response from the Glades County Detention Center (GCDC) and Miami Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a letter sent last week by Muslim Advocates and Americans for Immigrant Justice documenting clear violations of the religious freedom of their detainees by refusing to allow them to observe Ramadan.

The letter outlines several violations, including their refusal to “place requesting individuals on the Ramadan list, provide hot sanitary, nutritionally adequate meals to all Muslim detainees who wish to participate, and make plans for an Eid al-Fitr special meal to mark the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan.” The letter also asks GCDC to address other free exercise violations and to ensure that staff does not create an environment that is hostile to Muslim detainees. GCDC’s record of poor treatment of its detainees was documented, along with the letter, by the Intercept and Miami New Times.  The letter is available here.

According to Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates, “In the coming days, Muslims worldwide will celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer, and spiritual reflection. Muslim men detained at GCDC will be a notable exception. That’s because despite their right to worship freely, GCDC effectively denied numerous Muslim men in its care the right to observe Ramadan. Aside from a vague commitment offered to the media to investigate the concerns we outlined in last week’s letter, neither ICE nor GCDC has offered any indication that it will allow the Muslim detainees to properly observe Ramadan or even acknowledge receipt of our letter. Instead, we are continuing to hear reports of ongoing violations. If GCDC has any intention of actually allowing its detainees to observe Ramadan, it’s running out of time quickly. GCDC must acknowledge its responsibility to uphold the religious freedom of all people in its custody and correct these improper actions, before Ramadan ends.”

According to Lisa Lehner, senior litigation attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice, “Unfortunately, these ongoing violations and the lack of response to concerns raised in last week’s letter are not surprising. Instead, this is the way both ICE and Glades County Detention Center officials have responded in the past when other issues, such as inadequate medical care and access to counsel, have been raised. ICE and Glades County are required to respect the religious freedoms of all its detainees, and they must remedy these violations immediately.”

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

Americans for Immigrant Justice is an award-winning non-profit law firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, it champions the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocates for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serves as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speaks for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.