Bronx taxi driver Faruk Karimu was deported to Ghana this week without prior warning and despite an ongoing criminal investigation into his claim that he was beaten and raped by corrections officers at Newark’s Essex County Correctional Facility.
His attorneys believe the deportation violated federal law forbidding “any alien who is needed in the United States in connection with any investigation” from leaving the country.
Karimu, 40, was arrested and taken to Essex after a regularly scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May. Ten days later, he said he had a dispute with Essex corrections officers that began with a complaint that he didn’t have enough time out of his cell to call his family. He was then handcuffed and taken to the segregated housing unit, known as solitary confinement. That’s when two officers allegedly assaulted and raped him. He said he was also penetrated with an unknown object, possibly a pen.
“I was bleeding — it was a lot of blood,” he said in a phone interview from Accra, Ghana, where he hasn’t lived in 14 years. “It was so sad. I was screaming. Nobody came to help me.”
Two days after the incident Karimu was taken to University Hospital in Newark, where he was examined by doctors and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. They reported that he was experiencing pain and complained of anal bleeding due to the assault.
Karimu reported the incident to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, which earlier this year cited the Essex County jail for unsafe and unhealthy living conditions for detainees.
In late July Karimu was moved to the Hudson County Jail. He retained attorneys, and on Aug, 5 they obtained his medical records. But that same day Karimu was woken up in the middle of the night and taken to Newark Liberty International Airport. He said he was not told where he was going. After brief stays at ICE detention facilities in Louisiana and Texas, he was dropped off in Ghana on Wednesday.
“They moved me by force,” he said during a call on a borrowed cell phone. He said he has no money, and claimed his life is in danger from a criminal element in Ghana.
A spokeswoman for the county prosecutor’s office confirmed the ongoing criminal investigation into the May 27 incident. The union for corrections officers, PBA Local 382, did not return calls and an email for comment.
A spokesman for Essex County, Anthony Puglisi, said the county would cooperate with any investigation regardless of whether the detainee remained in its custody. “Essex County takes very seriously any allegation of sexual assault in our Correctional Facility,” he said in an email. He said the county follows federal regulations against prison rape to “ensure proper medical treatment is provided to the victim.”
“We do not condone any act of violence or sexual assault and will not hesitate to file criminal charges against those who break the law,” he said.
At ICE, a spokeswoman said Karimu was deported because of a 2010 federal conviction on drug charges. After leaving prison in 2016 he was allowed to stay in the United States under an order of supervision, pending regular check-ins with ICE. That order was revoked in May and he was taken into custody. The spokeswoman had no comment on the allegations of abuse.
Last week, before his deportation, Karimu’s lawyers wrote a letter to ICE arguing that he should not be deported while the investigation was pending. They were then unable to locate him until they learned he was deported to Ghana.
“We got involved and they just literally disappeared him,” said Sarah Gillman of Rapid Defense Network, an immigration law firm. “It is rather curious that he was detained May 17 and for nearly three months nothing occurred. And then when we got involved, everything occurred.”
His attorneys said his deportation interferes with the criminal justice system and prevents the alleged abusers from facing potential consequences. “ICE is not supposed to allow someone to be removed pending an investigation like this, but they coincidentally elect which rules and regulations they follow,” said attorney Gregory Copeland, Gillman’s colleague.
If Karimu’s account of abuse — which he says left him with psychological trauma — were to lead to criminal convictions, he could be eligible for a special visa for victims of crime. That would allow him to live in the United States. But Karimu would have to be returned to the country for that to happen. His attorneys are considering their options.
Essex County has a long-standing federal contract to hold ICE detainees for about $45 million a year, or $117 per detainee, per day. The number of detainees fluctuates between about 600 and 800 immigrants. Those held are mostly New Jersey residents awaiting deportation or hearings on immigration violations. Some New York residents are also at the jail, and asylum seekers from the southern border have been transferred there in recent months.
The county’s ICE contract is under heightened scrutiny from the Department of Homeland Security for poor treatment of detainees. And it is the subject of a political schism in Essex County, where Brendan Gill, president of the all-Democratic county governing body, wants to end the contract that the Democratic county executive, Joseph DiVincenzo, insists on maintaining.
Source: WNYC News