“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

24-year-old immigrant dies after being held at GEO Group detention center in Laredo

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a statement that 24 year old immigrant from El Salvador has passed away at a Laredo hospital after being held at the GEO Group's Rio Grande Detention Center in that city.  According to the ICE release:

"Welmer Alberto Garcia-Huezo, 24, was declared deceased Aug. 3. 

Garcia-Huezo was apprehended June 25 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol near Harlingen, Texas. Two days later, he was transferred to ICE custody and taken to Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo. 

On July 6, Garcia-Huezo became ill and was immediately transferred from ICE custody to the Laredo Medical Center (LMC). LMC hospital staff initially diagnosed him with cardiac arrest. A medical examiner will review the case regarding the cause of death."

The RGDC recently underwent an expansion and added capacity for ICE detainees in addition the detainees from the United States Marshals, themselves often immigrants under criminal prosecution for an immigration violation.  We will keep you posted on any developments from this story. 

Investigation underway in Diboll roof collapse

The last prisoner who was still hospitalized after suffering an injury in a roof collapse at the Diboll Correctional Center was expected to be released on Wednsday, July 23.

The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.The facility, south of Lufkin, is owned by the Management and Training Corporation. 

The roof collaposed at the Diboll Correctional Center on Saturday, July 19 just as prisoners and others were preparing for visitation. The Houston Chronicle reports that a team of engineers and investigators with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice visited the prison on Monday, July 21.

Since the damaged housing unit is not livable, the prisoners normally housed there were transferred to another facility Saturday and will remain there until the damage has been repaired, according to a statement released to the Chronicle. 

Warden David Driskell said he does not want to speculate on what caused the roof to collapse before the TDCJ completes the investigation.

"I'm not the expert in that. We do have a team TDCJ officials who actually owns this building and they're evaluating it and they're here today inspecting, and hopefully, we'll come up with a plan to get it repaired," Driskell told KTRE Channel 9.

Eighty-five prisoners are in another facility until repairs at Diboll can be completed. 

Family detention will return to Texas at the Karnes Detention Center, southeast of San Antonio

Family detention will return to Texas with the announcement that the Karnes County Civil Detention Center will be used to detain families and children who are seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the agency plans to start housing women and children at the center as soon as August.

The colorful facade of the Karnes Council Civil Detention Center.The colorful facade of the Karnes Council Civil Detention Center.Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney, told the Houston Chronicle that Karnes as a "detention center with a smiley face. From the outside, it looks like a high school. It doesn't have the same prison-like exterior that most detention facilities have.

"But make no mistake, it is a prison."

Grassroots Leadership denounced the plans in a statement that reads in part:

The last time family detention was used in Texas, it became a national embarrassment as children and babies detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center wore prison uniforms, lived in locked prison cells with open-toilets, were subjected to highly restricted movement, and threatened with alarming disciplinary tactics, including threats of separation from their parents if they cried too much or played too loudly. Medical treatment was inadequate and children as young as one lost weight.

“Given ICE’s shameful record of detaining immigrant families at the for-profit T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center, returning to mass family detention and deportation is a giant step backwards,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership.  “The experience at Hutto was abysmal, and we shouldn’t allow the return of such treatment of asylum-seeking families.”

The Hutto Detention Center was also operated by a for-profit private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, and was subject to a lawsuit by the ACLU and the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic contending that conditions at the facility violated minimum standards of care for detained children.   

The Karnes center, opened in 2012 and operated by GEO Group Inc., will house up to 532 detainees.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, beneficiary of GEO Group contributions, wants border children deported ASAP

Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar drew a rebuke from his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for proposing legislation that would make it easier to deport Central American children who are turning themselves in at the southern border. 

Rep. Henry Cuellar has been under fire for proposals to deport children faster and collecting private prison contributions.Rep. Henry Cuellar has been under fire for proposals to deport children faster and collecting private prison contributions.Rep. Cuellar, along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas),  proposed legislation to allow unaccompanied migrant children from Central America to leave the U.S. voluntarily rather than go through mandated legal processes — a "voluntary removal" system that is the current standard for children from Mexico and Canada. 

The two Texas lawmakers call it the "Humane Act" and it changes a 2008 law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act, or TVPRA,  to make it easier to deport these children faster, who are mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Currently, the TVPRA requires that unaccompanied minors from countries other than Canada and Mexico to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, and then released to the custody of relatives or other caregivers as they wait to have their cases heard in immigration court.

The New York Times notes that "The act sought to protect young victims of human trafficking. It was widely praised by lawmakers of both parties when President George W. Bush signed it into law."

They also called it a terrible idea

Rep. Henry Cuellar is a familiar name to readers of this blog for his close ties to GEO Group. Thanks to campaign contributions from GEO, Rep. Cuellar is the top Democratic recipient of private prison money in the House. 

The GEO-owned Karnes Detention Center sits in Rep. Cuellar's district and was recently in the news because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans on detaining families there as soon as August. 

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