November 8, 2019


Elizabeth Warren Demands DHS Provide Information Regarding Harmful ICE Solitary Confinement Policies

Letter References Government Accountability Project Whistleblower Client

WASHINGTON – Last Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) expressing grave concern that DHS and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are impeding CRCL’s ability–and mandate–to investigate complaints about ICE’s misuse of segregation on migrant detainees. Warren, having received no response from former ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan in response to her June 21, 2019 request for information on ICE’s use of solitary confinement over the last few years, requests in her letter to CRCL Officer Cameron Quinn detailed information about ICE’s system-wide use of segregation from 2013-2019 “to improve transparency regarding ICE’s continued use of solitary confinement and CRCL’s oversight of ICE detention facilities.” The response to Warren’s request is due November 14, 2019. 

In her most recent letter, Warren cites multiple investigations conducted by DHS’s Office of Inspector General that have found significant issues with ICE’s use of solitary confinement. In addition, she cites a publication by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) showing concerning patterns in how ICE utilizes segregation as a first, and sometimes only, resort to isolate and manage detainees. Ellen Gallagher, one of Government Accountability Project’s immigration whistleblower clients, is the primary source of the ICIJ report, and Senator Warren in her letter cites Gallagher’s concern that “this same set of circumstances will not stop … and [might] actually get worse.

Gallagher was an attorney with DHS CRCL when she began raising concerns, starting in 2014, about ICE’s widespread, systematic use of solitary confinement detainees with special vulnerabilities, including mental illness, in direct violation of federal regulations. In May 2019, Gallagher finally decided to go on the record after years of raising her concerns through every avenue within the government. 

Sen. Warren’s letter cites a new report from Project On Government Oversight (POGO) published in August that validates Gallagher’s concerns, documenting ICE’s continued use of solitary confinement to house detainees with special vulnerabilities, including mental illness. She further notes that at least three detainees “with mental illness who ha[ve] been put in solitary” have died by suicide in the last three years, with another suicide of a detainee held in solitary reported in October 2019. 

Warren uses her most recent letter to express the urgency of these issues, stating,“It is crucial that the federal government deploy every available tool to stop the abuse of solitary confinement and prevent another avoidable death.”

Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project’s Senior Counsel and lead attorney for Ellen Gallagher, praised Senator Warren’s letter, noting “We are heartened that Senator Warren is rigorously questioning DHS’s failure to address ICE’s widespread, abusive and illegal use of solitary confinement on vulnerable migrant detainees. Congress must step in where DHS’s oversight efforts have failed. Warren’s letter, echoed by other members of Congress, including Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Adam Smith (D-WA-09), shows that our client Ellen Gallagher’s persistence in blowing the whistle is at long last hopefully prompting efforts to hold ICE accountable and prevent future harm.” 

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director


Phone: 202-457-0034 ext. 156

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, the Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, the Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C