Red McCombs, a well known alumnus of the University of Texas, is half of the partnership that makes up Koontz McCombs — the real estate group contracting the land with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the new family detention camp in Dilley, TX.
The ominously named South Texas Family Detention Center will be able to hold 2,400 people, making it the largest immigrant detention center in the country and putting it on par with the internment camps built for Japanese families during World War II.
On Monday, November 17th, students, alumni, and other advocates gathered at UT's McCombs School of Business (named after McCombs in recognition of his financial support of the school) to petition Thomas Gilligan, dean of the school, to urge McCombs to reconsider the deal with CCA.
According to some sources, Dean Gilligan agrees that the practice of detaining families is unjust. It's up to McCombs to determine the next move.
The GEO Group's stock prices hit a new 52-week high this week, reaching $38.69 a share. At a stockholder meeting in August, the company promised increased revenue — a projection of $26 million this year — resulting from the return of family detention to the Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Texas that same month.
The Corrections Corporation of America is also profitting from the return of family detention, with the construction on the newest and largest immigrant detention center in the country—the South Texas Family Residential Center—beginning last month in Dilley, TX. CCA reportedly will make $298 dollars per person per day in Dilley.
Private prison corporations are counting on the expansion of immigrant family detention as an entirely new income stream. They can charge the government more than $250 per day for every individual (mother or child) housed in their facility, over $100 more than they can charge for an adult in immigrant detention.
The Karnes City Family Detention Center came under intense scrutiny earlier this month when the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and lawyers from the University of Texas School of Law submitted a complaint that guards have been committing “substantial, ongoing sexual abuse” against the mothers being detained.
When the facility—run by the GEO Group—began receiving mothers and their children at the beginning of August, advocates remembered the conditions and trauma that the families detained at the T. Don Hutto facility had to endure from 2006 to 2009. On an ICE directed visit to the Karnes facility last month, mothers complained about the severe cold, poor food quality, and the lack of freedom that they and their children experience on a daily basis, a nearly identical description of initial conditions in the Hutto facility.
Private prison corporations like the GEO Group deal primarily in adult criminal detention, and are not equipped to deal compassionately with vulnerable populations such as recently arrived immigrant families who are seeking asylum. “The recent allegations of sexual abuse don’t surprise me at all,” Grassroots Leadership’s Immigration Projects Director Cristina Parker commented, "I'm sickened, but not surprised." A report jointly released by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies documents the lousy track record of the GEO Group when it comes to human rights abuses.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), along with Immigration Rights and Civil Rights Clinics at the University of Texas Law School, Human Rights First, and the Law Office of Javier N. Maldonado, filed a complaint on September 30, 2014 with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demanding the immediate investigation of and swift response to widespread allegations of sexual abuse and harassment at the detention center in Karnes City.
In a press release about the complaint, MALDEF outlined the abuse allegations cited in the complaint to include the exploitation of vulnerable women by facility guards and staff, such as:
• removing female detainees from their cells late in the late evening and early morning hours for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts in various parts of the facility, and attempting to cover up these actions;
• calling detainees their "novias," or "girlfriends" and requesting sexual favors from female detainees in exchange for money, promises of assistance with their pending immigration cases, and shelter when and if the women are released; and
• kissing, fondling and/or groping female detainees in front of other detainees, including children.
The MALDEF release also says that "although this unlawful conduct was reported to Karnes Center personnel, to date, no reasonable actions have been taken to stop or prevent this abuse, or to prevent its escalation."
The GEO Group denied the allegations and ICE had no comment.