County officials say that comments from President Trump surrounding increased border security have led to increase interest in immigrant detention centers, as ICE looks for more bed space to detain undocumented immigrants. County Judge Aurelio Guerra said "I’m optimistic we should be able to arrange something out with an operator and a branch of government."
He also said "There seems to be a lot more interest here with this presidential administration. The demand is more toward ICE. Where we are geographically, with our proximity to the border, plays a big role."
However, county officials have yet to make statements on any potential economic impact or the number of jobs created.
The facility was operated by a private prison company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), for a number of years before losing their contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The contract was canceled following an uprising from the immigrants detained at the facility, who cited poor medical care as one of the reasons that led to them taking over parts of the prison and setting fire.
However, this facility has had numerous problems before the contract was canceled, including prisoners escaping, guards being accused of immigrant smuggling, sexual assault, and others being charged with bribery. Willacy County also went millions of dollars into debt following an expansion of the private prison in 2007, with the eventual closing leading to 400 employees laid off.