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.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quietly been increasing the number of migrant families in their detention facilities in South Texas, reports The Monitor.
The number of migrants who are processed through ICE and released locally has dropped significantly, according to the Sacred Heart Immigrant Respite Center in McAllen. Less than a month ago the center saw around 300 migrants a day, with the center now averaging about 90 people per day. People from the respite center and RAICES believe that the number is based off of the number of beds available in Karnes or Dilley family detention centers, which hold primarily Central American mothers and their children seeking asylum.
Last December, a judge in Austin ruled that the two facilities could not be licensed as child care facilities. During the time of the ruling, there were about 1,700 people in Dilley and 600 in Karnes. RAICES, which provide pro bono legal services at the two centers, said the numbers are now closer to 2,000 in Karnes and 700 in Dilley.
Officials at the Kinney County Detention Center, which is operated by for-profit prison company Community Education Centers (CEC), said that the uprising was quelled without any serious incident, although officials from U.S. Marshals, Border Patrol, and Kinney County Sheriff were called in. CEC operates the prison for the U.S. Marshals, who detain about 400 prisoners at the facility.
A spokesperson from CEC said that about 60 prisoners refused to leave the recreation area and return to their cells, protesting the earlier removal of another prisoner. The warden locked down the unit & then used force and tear gas to disperse the prisoners. According to the Kinney County sheriff, no one was hurt on either side.
The Port Arthur News reports that the Jefferson County Commissioners Court approved a request for proposals to develop the Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility, which is currently vacant.
In December, Corrections Corporation of America (which has since rebranded itself as “CoreCivic”) addressed the Jefferson County Commissioners Court during a workshop, and will submit a bid to turn the facility into a “secure” facility aimed at reducing recidivism in adults with substance abuse disorders. They were one of two groups who spoke to the court about potential use of the facility. Four to five groups are now interested in the property. All of the interested groups want to open substance abuse treatment rehabilitation facilities.
The facility was closed in 2011 and the county cited a reduced budget and a significantly lower youth population as key reasons to close the facility. A charter school from Dallas had leased the building but never paid for the utilities which led to the contract being canceled.
County Judge Jeff Branick said that any interested parties would first relieve the county of the burden of paying the utilities. The facility also needs maintenance work done, with the HVAC, lights, and alarms needing to be repaired. The judge said that the county will not help any bidders with upfront costs.