Formerly Detained Muslims Receive Damages for the Denial of Their Right to Observe Their Religion by Glades County Detention Center

For Immediate Release
August 12, 2021
Contact: Lisa Lehner, Director of Litigation
305-573-1106 ext. 1020 | llehner@aijustice.org

GLADES COUNTY, FL— Today, Muslim Advocates, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) and the law firm King & Spalding, announce a settlement with the Glades County Detention Center for its discriminatory and abusive practices at a county-run immigration detention facility that systematically prevented Muslim detainees from practicing their faith. Since June 2007, Glades County has been detaining immigrants under an agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in which the county is paid over one million per month by ICE.

For years, officials at the Glades County Detention Center (GCDC) had engaged in a number of discriminatory policies and practices that made it difficult, and often impossible, for the Muslim individuals detained in the facility to practice their faiths and observe Ramadan. Officials regularly denied detainees access to halal food and other religious items such as prayer rugs, and frequently canceled weekly congregational prayer services. These practices prevented Muslim detainees from exercising their faith and are clear violations of federal and state law. The lawsuit was filed in Ft. Myers, Florida, in February 2019 by the Plaintiffs, 5 Somali nationals who arrived in the United States years ago as refugees, fleeing violence and persecution in their native country. The lawsuit sought damages for the denial of their First Amendment rights and violations of Florida Law that were enacted to prevent a government agency from imposing a  substantial  burden  on  the religious exercise of a person a person “residing or confined to an institution.”

The settlement comes amidst calls from numerous organizations to end ICE’s contract with Glades County where its abusive detention conditions and practices have plagued the South Florida immigration system for many years.

“Glades County has failed in providing basic and fundamental human rights to the immigration detainees in their custody, and this denial of religious freedom is but one example” said Lisa Lehner, Director of Litigation at AI Justice. “But the fault also lies with the federal government, namely ICE and DHS, that is responsible for oversight of these county jails and private prisons that are housing the federal immigration detainees and paid an enormous amount of taxpayer money.”

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Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that fights for justice for immigrants through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy and outreach. 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; fights to keep families informed, empowered and together; and pursues redress on behalf of immigrant groups with particular and compelling claims to justice.

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.

King & Spalding is an international law firm that represents a broad array of clients, including half of the Fortune Global 100, with 1,200 lawyers in 22 offices in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The firm is consistently recognized for the results it obtains, including in its leading pro bono practice focused on achieving justice and vindicating the rights of the indigent.  More information is available at www.kslaw.com and www.kslaw.com/pages/pro-bono.