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Residents protest newest immigration lock-up in Texas

The people of Conroe, Texas are getting a new immigration detention center in their town, regardless of whether they want it or not, reports the Texas Observer.

 

In April, the GEO Group was awarded a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to build a new immigrant detention center in Conroe. The contract includes the construction and operation of the $110-million facility, which the company expects to earn $44 million in annual revenue. However, city officials and residents are not impressed.

 

Conroe Mayor Toby Powell  said, "It’s going ahead; I don’t think I have any say-so," in deciding whether the facility will be built or not. When the idea for the detention center was first brought up in 2013, members of the community spoke out against the construction, stating they did not want Conroe to become "Con-vict-roe." These protests continued as community members spoke out against the new facility.

 

Unfortunately, the contract is between ICE and GEO, who already received the necessary building permits. Mayor Powell claims he was powerless to stop the issuing of permits.

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Immigration shuts down alternative to detention program for asylum seekers

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is shutting down a program designed as an alternative to detention for asylum, reports KristTV.

 The Family Case Management Program  was an alternative to detaining families in detention centers, two of which are located in Texas. There were 630 families enrolled as of April 19. The program connected asylum seeking families to social workers who helped participants find lawyers, get housing and healthcare, and helped them navigate the immigration court system. The women who are eligible for the program, or who were previously enrolled, can be expected to wear ankle monitors, which have been reported to cause bruising and ostracism.

 Ann Schlarb, an executive with the GEO Group, the private prison company that contracted with ICE operate the program, wrote that families in the program have thrived, and that 99% of families successfully attended court appearances and ICE check-ins. So why end such a successful program?

 When asked about shutting down the program, an ICE spokesperson said, "By discontinuing [family case management], ICE will save more than $12 million a year — money which can be utilized for other programs which more effectively allow ICE to discharge its enforcement and removal responsibilities."

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A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

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Texas Senate passes bill that will license 'baby jails' as childcare facilities

The Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow family detention camps to be licensed as child care facilities, reports Raw Story. The bill now heads to the House.

The bill would allow family detention centers to be licensed as child care facilities, which would extend the length of detention for mothers in children detained at the centers. A federal judge ruled in 2015 that children could not be held in secure facilities that are not licensed child care facilities. To try and circumvent that ruling, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) approved a rule that would allow the licensing of family detention centers to continue.

This approved rule was then challenged by a lawsuit that was filed by immigrant families who had been detained in Karnes and Dilley — the two family detention centers located in Texas. An Austin-area judge issued a final judgement in December of 2016 that prevented DFPS from licensing the facilities. This ruling has been appealed by the Texas Attorney General.

Reeves County Detention Center cancels visits under "precautionary" lockdown

The Reeves County Detention Center has been turning away visitors to the facility due to a "precautionary" lockdown, reports CBS 7.

The Reeves County Detention Center is run by the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S. While there has been no word on the cause of the lockdown, individuals told CBS 7 that visitation to the prison has not been allowed for the past month due to the "precautionary" lockdown.

When contacted about the lockdown, Pablo E. Paenz, of GEO Group, said "while we’re not able to comment on specific security matters, we can confirm that the center is under a precautionary lockdown. During this time, medical services and regularly scheduled meals are being provided to the population. The center is committed to keeping those entrusted to our care safe and secure."

This is not the first time the Reeves County Detention Center has been in the spotlight. In the past, the facility has been the site of multiple riots, mysterious deaths, and has denied entry to attorneys.

We will post updates as we learn more.

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"Precautionary" lockdown finally lifted at Reeves Detention Center

The lockdown on the Reeves County Detention Center has been lifted, reports News West 9.

As we reported earlier, the detention center was under "precautionary" lockdown. Visitors to the center were denied, and some reported that visitation had not been allowed for almost a month. Officials from the GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the facility, confirmed that there had been a lockdown but gave no reason as to why.

In an email sent to News West 9, GEO officials said the lockdown had been lifted. However, they were unclear on when the lockdown was lifted or how long it had been in effect.

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Immigration enforcer promises to be "a strong advocate" in new role at private prison company

A top official for Immigration and Customs Enforcement is moving on to a new job with one of the largest private prison companies, reports the Daily Beast.

Daniel Ragsdale is currently second-in-command at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Before becoming deputy director, Ragsdale was temporarily the head of the agency until President Trump named his replacement in January. He will now move on to a new role with the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S.. GEO Group operates facilities for both federal prisoners and undocumented immigrants who have been detained by ICE.  

In a letter to his ICE colleagues, Ragsdale said, "While you may be losing me as a colleague, please know that I will continue to be a strong advocate for you and your mission."

Ragsdale is not the first official at ICE who has made the move from the public to private sector. Various GEO Group executives, including David Venturella and Mary Loiselle, were both ICE officials before landing top posts at GEO.

Employing former immigration enforcement agents seems to be working for GEO Group, which recently bought two correctional facilities and landed a contract to construct and operate a new $100 million dollar detention center.

GEO Group awarded contract for new immigrant detention center in Texas

The GEO Group released a press release today stating that the company had been awarded a contract for a new 1,000 bed detention center in Conroe, Texas.

The GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S., has been awarded the contract by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The facility is expected to cost over $100 million. GEO will design, finance, construct, and operate the facility for ICE. Including renewal options, the contract between ICE and GEO is a ten-year contract, and is expected to generate $44 million in annual revenue for the company. GEO is planning on having the facility completed by late 2018.

GEO Group closes purchase of Community Education Centers

The GEO Group, a private prison company, has finalized the purchase of Community Education Centers, reports Seeking Alpha.

Lives lost in ICE custody

At least six people have died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2016, reports Fusion.

During Fiscal Year 2017, which started on October 1, 2016 and lasts until the end of September 2017, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported the deaths of six individuals in their custody. Two of those individuals were held in Texas detention centers until their untimely deaths.

Olubunmi Toyin Joshua, from the United Kingdom, had been detained in the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell, Texas. She had been detained in the detention center for more than eight months before her death. ICE did not disclose a cause of death. The Rolling Plains Detention Center is operated by the for-profit, private prison company Emerald Company.

Wenceslau Esmerio Campos was a Brazilian national who had been detained at the South Texas Detention Complex outside of San Antonio. Wenceslau was taken to the Frio County hospital after complaining of chest pains to prison officials. He was then taken to Methodist Hospital of San Antonio, where he died. His preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest. The South Texas Detention Center is operated by the GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S.

According to Fusion, there were 12 in-custody deaths reported during Fiscal Year 2016; in Fiscal Year 2015, seven people died in ICE custody.

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