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Immigrant Detainees Tell of Attack Dogs and Abuse

Passaic County Jail
Daniel Zwerdling, NPR
Passaic County Jail

Since Congress revamped the nation's immigration laws in the 1990s, the government has rounded up tens of thousands of immigrants each year who've committed a crime — from murder to offenses such as overstaying their visas — even if the offenders had already been punished.

These immigrants have been jailed for months or years while Homeland Security officials obtained a court order to deport them. Some have allegedly experienced brutal and violent conditions while in detention.

In a two-part series, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling investigates allegations that guards have beaten up detainees and mistreated them in other ways at two jails in New Jersey used by Homeland Security.

Zwerdling's first report looks at the case of Hemnauth Mohabir, a native of Guyana. In the spring of 2002, Mohabir returned to Guyana to visit his mother, who was ill. On his way back to New York that April, an immigration agent at Kennedy International Airport noticed Mohabir had a criminal record: Six years earlier, he'd been convicted of possessing about $5 worth of drugs. The judge fined him $250 for a misdemeanor and let him go.

Because of that past conviction, Mohabir was deported to Guyana and banned from ever coming back to the United States. But before returning to his native country, Mohabir was detained for almost two years at New Jersey's Passaic County Jail, where he alleges that guards taunted and beat detainees and terrorized them with dogs. One detainee was attacked by a dog earlier this year and sent to the hospital. Evidence obtained by NPR during the course of a five-month-long investigation suggests Mohabir's tale of abuse, corroborated by other detainees, is true.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.