(RNS) — Immigrant rights activists and religious groups will head to a Miami detention center Saturday (Sept. 19) to demand immigration officials respond to reports of Muslim detainees being forced to choose between eating pork or eating rotten halal meat.
The car rally will begin at 11 a.m. at the USCIS Kendall Field Office and will end with an interfaith vigil at the Krome Service Processing Center.
It will include a number of groups, including Mustino Times, an organization that works to connect Latino Muslims.
It’s been nearly a month since the civil rights groups Muslim Advocates and the Florida-based Americans for Immigrant Justice sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding an immediate restoration of the detainees’ rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Since the onset of the pandemic, ICE officers have repeatedly violated the religious freedom rights of Muslim detainees at the Krome Service Processing Center, the groups said.
“In the face of the Krome staff’s indifference and inaction, Muslim detainees are left with three choices during this pandemic: eat meals that contain pork, eat meals that are spoiled, or eat nothing at all,” the groups argued in a letter sent to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 19.
When Muslim detainees approached Krome’s chaplain for assistance, the chaplain dismissed their repeated complaints by saying, “It is what it is,” the civil rights groups allege. Formal requests submitted to ICE staff, too, were “willfully ignored” for months, the groups said.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Religion News Service.
Mary Bauer, legal director for Muslim Advocates, said they will pursue “all possible avenues to force the agency to take accountability for what it has done.”
“ICE’s silence — save for a couple dismissive, misleading tweets — is an insult to the Muslims they forced to choose between eating pork, rotten food or nothing at all,” Bauer said in a statement.
Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson in an Aug. 31 letter to the Department of Homeland Security requested an investigation into allegations that ICE fed detainees pork, in violation of their religious tenets.
“Given the history of religious freedom violations across ICE detention facilities, including violations affecting Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu detainees, we find the allegations of targeted violations of Muslim civil rights to be credible,” the letter read.
Muslim Advocates has also launched a petition demanding ICE be held accountable. The organization said it has been signed by more than 13,000 people.