Rafael Alberto Lloveras Linares claims to be Orthodox Sephardi. He is being held in an Etowah County jail, which contracts with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to house prisoners. Linares says he has met with the prison chaplain and complained that the food he is served is not kosher. He also wants to meet with a rabbi once a month, and to observe Jewish holidays.
According to the Huntsville Times, a spokesperson for the jail said “all of the facility’s meals are kosher” and are prepared on-site.
That sounds unlikely for any prison, especially one in a state with few kosher-observant residents. Also, an ICE spokesperson later said that it is agency policy to purchase fully-prepared, certified kosher meals.
A federal law from 2000 requires the government to accommodate the religious practices of prisoners when reasonably possible.
Linares has been in prison since 2010 for staying in the US after his tourist visa expired in 1995. He has applied for asylum, claiming he would be persecuted in Venezuela, and he has refused to board planes for deportation three times.
Kosher prison meals have become a hot-button issue in the US’s massive penal system. A ruling in Florida required all inmates who ask for kosher meals to receive them, resulting in a flood of requests for the more expensive food, challenging the state’s struggling budget.