- Republican Texas Rep. Troy Nehls is demanding answers from the DOJ as to whether the department is emboldening the Dominican Republic’s preventive detention system against Americans.
- Over 70% of all prisoners in the Dominican Republic are there under preventive detention, a system that requires no charges or evidence of crime for imprisonment, and some are likely American citizens.
- Nehls called on the DOJ’s inspector general to provide information as to whether the department’s criminal justice reform programs are being mismanaged on the taxpayer’s dime and used to make the Dominican Republic’s preventive detention system worse.
Republican Texas Rep. Troy Nehls has petitioned the inspector general of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether the department is backing programs that enforce preventive detention against Americans in the Dominican Republic, according to a letter obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
An unknown number of American citizens are currently imprisoned in the Dominican Republic, some of which are likely there under preventive detention, a system which requires no charges of evidence of crime for imprisonment. A variety of taxpayer-funded DOJ programs aimed at correcting the Dominican Republic’s criminal justice system may actually be bolstering the country’s preventive detention system being weaponized against Americans and “unreasonably denying” them due process, according to Nehls’ letter sent on Wednesday to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
“I am calling on Inspector General Horowitz to immediately investigate whether taxpayer funds are being used to unlawfully detain individuals, such as American citizens, in foreign countries,” Nehls told the DCNF. “I look forward to reviewing DOJ’s findings and ensuring the thorough oversight of American taxpayer dollars.”
The DOJ has worked to correct the criminal justice systems of certain countries through a number of reform programs funded by the U.S. Aid for International Development (USAID), including the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development (OPDAT) and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), according to Nehls’ letter. Nehls noted that in 2000, the then-inspector general testified before Congress and said DOJ officials involved with those programs had “engaged in potentially criminal misconduct and serious mismanagement.”
Those offices in question still operate out of the Dominican Republic today, Nehls wrote in the letter. Despite the DOJ attempting to correct the country’s criminal justice system through programs like OPDAT and ICITAP in recent years, currently 70% of prisoners in the Dominican Republic are held under preventive detention in prisons that are at 164% capacity.
“The country is still viewed by many to have an inadequate criminal system that is at a ‘crisis’ level,” Nehls wrote in his letter. “With the prospect that American citizens and legal permanent residents are being held in prison unjustly, it begs the question as to the accountability of these programs.”
“I urge you to thoroughly review these DOJ programs to determine whether taxpayer funds are supporting groups or entities that are holding American citizens and permanent residents in jail,” Nehls wrote.
In August, Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding answers on behalf of family members whose relatives were detained in the Dominican Republic. “Families of some of the detained individuals have approached this committee and the State Department seeking assistance and guidance during this distressing period. It is important to me that these families get the answers they need from their government, and nothing less,” McCaul wrote.
“It always goes back to the funding – we’re sending millions of dollars to the Dominican Republic… They used to pretend they were solving the preventive detention crisis,” Connie Mack, former Republican Florida congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, previously told the DCNF. “But they don’t even bring it up anymore. It’s not even mentioned.”
Nehls gave Horowitz until Oct. 13 to respond to his query, according to the letter.
The DOJ inspector general and the State Department did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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