The GEO Group's Laredo Superjail, a 1,500 bed federal detention center that attracted opposition in Laredo and around the state, held it's grand opening Wednesday. As someone involved in the organizing against the prison, which will hold mostly immigrants being held under criminal immigration charges under the Orwellian-titled Operation Streamline, I was especially sad to see this prison open.
I attended the opening, and have to admit it was even more surreal than I could have imagined - complete with a high school mariachi band singing in Spanish, a cake in the shape of the GEO Group's corporate logo, and a slew of new GEO Group prison guards (many of whom looked to be 18 or 19) wearing desert camo style uniforms.
GEO Group executives George Zoley and Wayne Calabrese mingled with local politicos, including Laredo mayor Raul Salinas and Webb County judge Danny Valdez, who apparently have forgotten their respective councils' rejection of GEO's "blood money" a little over a year ago.
The prison will hold pre-trial federal detainees for the U.S. Marshals - many of whom will be immigrants prosecuted for criminal violations under the program Operation Streamline. The facility was proposed back in 2003, and even before the official launch of Streamline, the U.S. Marshals' federal detention capacity was being pushed almost exclusively by expanded criminal prosecution of immigration violations (PDF), a departure from the old style of dealing with immigration issues in the immigration court system.