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Immigration detainee sues Alabama prison for kosher food

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(JTA) — A Venezuelan Jewish man being held in an Alabama prison filed a federal lawsuit demanding that he be served kosher food.

Rafael Alberto Lloveras Linares, a federal immigration detainee, claims in his lawsuit that he is not being served kosher meals as required by federal law, according to the online edition of the Huntsville Times. The lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Birmingham.

Linares said in his lawsuit that he met with the prison chaplain and complained that his meals were not kosher. He asked to observe the Sabbath, meet monthly with a rabbi and celebrate the major Jewish holidays.

A spokeswoman for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department told the newspaper on Friday that the meals are prepared onsite and are kosher.

A federal law passed in 2000 calls on the prisons services to accommodate the religious practices of prisoners whenever possible.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which contracts with the county jail to house the immigration detainees, told the newspaper that it also works to accommodate detainees’ religious preferences.

“With the exception of fresh fruits and vegetables, the facility’s kosher-food purchases shall be fully prepared, ready-to-use, and bearing the symbol of a recognized kosher certification agency,” the agency’s policy reads. “Any item containing pork or a pork product is prohibited.”

Linares has been detained by the immigration agency since July 2010, when he was arrested for overstaying a 1995 tourist visa. He applied for asylum, saying that as a Jew in Venezuela his life is in danger.

A federal judge ordered that Linares be deported, but he has refused to board planes to return him to Venezuela four times. Linares has an arrest record that includes convictions for trespassing, driving with a suspended license and eluding law enforcement, according to the Huntsville Times.

 

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