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Migrants are gathered inside the fence of a makeshift detention center in El Paso, Texas on Wed. March 27, 2019. Photo: Sergio Flores for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Over a 5-year stretch during both the Obama and Trump administrations, thousands of migrants were placed into solitary confinement while in ICE custody, nearly half of whom had not appeared to violate any known rules, according to government documents newly obtained and reported by NBC News.

"Solitary confinement was being used as the first resort, not the last resort,"
— Ellen Gallagher, a policy adviser with the Department of Homeland Security told NBC

Gallagher also described the misconduct within solitary confinement as "urgent and at times life-threatening."

Details: A review of thousands of documents from 2012 to 2017 — retrieved by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Freedom of Information Act — included detention records and court fillings, as well as interviews with current and former detainees from around the world.

Their findings included:

  • Many of the detained migrants are reportedly disabled, mentally ill or identify as LGBTQ.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement attributed much of the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable people to safety concerns. However, internal guidances require detention officials to record alternatives considered before resorting to isolation. Gallagher claims she often saw no evidence that ICE had pursued other options.
  • In isolation, detainees are on lockdown for at least 22 hours each day.
  • Detainees only had attorneys in 11% of the cases.

The United Nations has characterized the use of solitary confinement as "torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," adding that confinement for 15 or more days should be banned, barring rare circumstances.

Go deeper: Jail can be a death sentence for the mentally ill

Go deeper

58 mins ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

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