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ICE expands use of pepper spray at privately-run immigration detention center accused of abuse

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Private guards staffing Miami’s Krome Service Processing Center will now carry pepper spray on the job.
By Justin Rohrlich
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

An ICE immigration detention center in South Florida will soon provide pepper spray to the private contractors who run the facility. Contract guards at Miami’s Krome Service Processing Center, which civil rights groups have criticized for “substandard” conditions and “abuse of power,” were until now prohibited from carrying pepper spray at work.

A public notice issued last week announced additional funding for “supplies, training, and certification” in pepper spray use by the guards at Krome, who work for a private company called Akima Global Services, or AGS. 

Krome, a former military base, holds up to 650 detainees in civil—not criminal—detention as they await deportation. Large numbers of those being housed at Krome do not have criminal histories of any kind.

AGS has operated Krome since 2014, earning more than $260 million on the contract to date. Migrant detainees have long described abuses by Krome’s contract guards. Some of those held there say they lack access to adequate health care, and migrants held at Krome have died while awaiting deportation. Earlier this year, ICE asked a federal judge for permission to force-feed a Krome detainee who was on a hunger strike. A 2019 analysis by the Miami New Times found one immigrant held at Krone was kept in solitary confinement for 124 days. The United Nations considers anything beyond 15 days to be a form of torture.

Previously, only the handful of ICE officials overseeing the day-to-day administration of Krome were authorized to use pepper spray, according to internal ICE documents. ICE’s recent public notice says AGS guards were given permission to carry chemical agents in a July 2019 directive, the terms of which are now being implemented.

Detainees at other privately-run ICE detention facilities have complained of guards using pepper spray as punishment, allegedly using it against groups of hunger strikers on more than one occasion.

ICE’s most recent inspection report for the Krome facility says pepper spray was not used once during the prior 12 months. Quartz inquired as to why the agency sought to increase deployment of pepper spray at Krome, but ICE has not yet responded.

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