Stirring testimony from inside the Stewart Detention Center underscores ongoing abuse and racist judge  

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, October 28, 2019
Immigrants’ rights groups file a complaint on behalf of people in detention with the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Lumpkin, Georgia — As people detained at the Stewart Detention Center (Stewart) headed into the 26th day of being denied access to outdoor recreation, a group of people currently detained there filed a formal complaint with a federal watchdog agency today detailing abuse by facility staff and deepening the existing criticism of Immigration Judge Dan Trimble. The complaint, lodged with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, was written in the name of hundreds of people held at the facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, just two hours outside of Atlanta.   

“This man [Judge Dan Trimble] has demonstrated his lack of professionalism as an immigration judge, showing hate, racism, xenophobia and repudiation against immigrants in his decisions, denying any type of benefit to those detainees who are assigned to him,” the complaint states, referring to Immigration Judge Dan Trimble. “He does this even while receiving all of the required documentation for release on bond. He denies all possibility [for relief] without any explanation.”

Trimble has turned down 95 percent of those seeking asylum from fiscal year 2011 to 2016, according to a study of immigration judges by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University and is a part of Georgia’s notorious record as being one of the toughest courts on immigration in the nation. Trimble also sits on the visitors board of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, a hub for cooperation between U.S. and Latin American military implicated in systemic human rights abuses.

Over the past month at Stewart, as people inside have peacefully protested the systemic abuses they suffer, facility officials have used excessive force against them multiple times in an effort to silence their voices. Reports include the use of gas bombs and rubber bullets directed at immigrants. 

“The Stewart Detention Center is emblematic of the deadly issues endemic to the immigration detention system that ICE denies and conceals,” said Gabriela Viera, Advocacy Associate at Detention Watch Network. “We applaud the people detained in Stewart for speaking out against the abuses they face and will fight for their release until the system ends entirely.” 

Abuses detailed in the complaint from people inside Stewart include:

  • 72 people disappeared after a peaceful protest that was soon broken up in the yard of the detention center
  • Lack of outdoor access for many days
  • Indefinite detention

Recently, 100 Georgia and national organizations led by Project South called for an investigation into the Stewart Detention Center, following multiple deaths, including suicides.

“We have been raising the alarm about the horrific conditions at the Stewart Detention Center for many years. Our calls for accountability and redress have been repeatedly ignored,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director at Project South. 

“Like every human being, immigrants have the right to a fair and impartial process in court,” said Laura Rivera, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI). “SIFI supports the right of detained individuals to speak out against the abuses in the immigrant detention and immigration court systems, and respects their courage in doing so.”


Georgia Detention Watch (GDW) is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state.

Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We work with communities pushed forward by the struggle– to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation. We build relationships with organizations and networks across the US and global South to inform our local work and to engage in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice.

SPLC is a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. Since its founding in 1971, SPLC has defended the constitutional rights of people incarcerated across the Deep South.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit Follow @DetentionWatch.