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Immigrant Detention

ICE wants permission to destroy records of immigrant abuse

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants approval for its timetable on retaining or destroying records related to detention operations, reports the ACLU.

 

ICE reached out to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which decides how federal agencies maintain their records. ICE wishes to change their policy on destroying 11 types of records including sexual assaults, solitary confinement, and deaths of individuals in custody. ICE proposed destroying records of sexual assault and death records after 20 years, and proposed destroying records of solitary confinement after three years.

 

NARA has given provisional approval to ICE for their policy changes. NARA gave various reasons for the approval, stating that sexual assaults and deaths in custody "do not document significant actions of Federal officials." This is obviously incorrect, seeing as there have been multiple cases of sexual assaults in public and private facilities that contract with ICE. The agency also stated that information related to sexual assaults is "highly sensitive and does not warrant retention."

 

Maintaining these records is vital, as they are often the only way for the public to understand and monitor an immigration detention system that is notoriously inhumane. With private prisons expanding under the Trump administration, it is more important than ever to maintain strict records that expose the mistreatment and injustice inside immigrant detention centers.

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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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A diabetic migrant's medication trashed while held for ICE in CCA custody

A diabetic woman detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held in a Corrections Corporation of America (now called CoreCivic) detention center had her medication thrown away, Rewire reports.

 

Brenda Menjivar Guardado, from El Salvador, was detained in June at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, which is used to detain asylum-seeking women as their asylum case goes through the courts. Guardado has Type 1 diabetes, but had managed her condition throughout her journey to the United States. Once she was in ICE custody, however, her medicine was thrown away, according to Rewire.

 

While detained at Hutto, Guardado was given new medication, but it was ineffective. According to a press release from Grassroots Leadership, Guardado's glucose skyrocketed to 452, with normal glucose levels being between 90 and 100. When she asked for improved medication, officials at Hutto told her to drink more water. They also stated she should go back to El Salvador if she wanted better care.

 

American Gateways, a pro bono legal service that aids women in Hutto, tried to get her removed from custody due to Guardado's medical emergency, but the request was denied. Though Guardado fears for her life in El Salvador, she decided to accept deportation in hopes of receiving improved medical care. She is currently detained in Laredo as she awaits her deportation.

 

The Hutto Detention Center is operated by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), a for-profit prison company with a history of medical neglect.  CoreCivic also operates multiple other immigrant detention centers and prison throughout Texas.

 

 

Another death in ICE custody

A Salvadoran immigrant died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports the Huffington Post.

Carlos Mejía Bonilla of El Salvador was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 1. He was taken to Jersey City Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit for gastrointestinal bleeding on June 8. He died two days later, according to a statement from ICE.

 Carlos was the tenth person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year, which began on October 1. Two of those deaths were suicides. Another woman, detained in a family detention center, attempted suicide in hopes that it would allow her family, who was detained with her, to go free.

 Though the number of deaths this fiscal year is already equal to 2016, and the most since 2011, the federal government is looking to increase the number of beds in private facilities used to detain immigrants. Another report shows that the number of deaths in ICE custody is on pace to double from 2016.

 These deaths highlight the horrible conditions and treatment of people in private prisons, and shows why they must be shut down.

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Walker County applies to house immigrant detainers for feds

Walker County submitted an application to U.S. immigration officials to house undocumented immigrants charged with criminal offenses, reports the Huntsville Item.

Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae and Captain Steve Fisher met with both Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to discuss the possibility of detaining undocumented immigrants in the Walker County Jail. For now the county could only lease 20 beds to the federal government, because any more would cause staffing and other issues at the jail. However, the sheriff said that the county could take more immigrants detainees if a deal was struck with DHS and ICE.

If a contract is approved, the jail would have to meet federal standards to house detainees. Capt. Fisher believes that will not be an issue since the jail is only a few years old. Sheriff McRae said that if the contract is awarded, he will consider sending four deputies to Washington D.C. to be trained by ICE as part of the 287(g) program.

When the jail was being built, Walker County officials told taxpayers that they would look for ways to bring in additional revenue. Capt. Fisher said that is what they are doing.

 

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ICE may house undocumented immigrants in private prisons closed by DOJ

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may soon reopen private prisons in Ohio, New Mexico, and Robstown, Texas, as reported by Correctional News.  

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is considering reopening these three facilities to handle an influx of undocumented immigrants reported to be entering the U.S. This move comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would begin phasing out the use of private prisons in the federal prison system.

The facilities in Ohio, New Mexico, and Texas had previously been used exclusively by the Bureau of Prisons, which falls under the jurisdiction of the DOJ. .  However, this comes at a time when the Department of Homeland Security is doing its own review of private prison use, and will decide in the next months whether to continue using private companies to run their immigrant detention centers.

The facility in Robstown, Texas is operated by the GEO Group, a for-profit prison company. This facility has a history of issues, including failed Texas Commission on Jail Standards reviews, inmate escapes, and prisoner deaths.

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Emerald Corrections to open new ICE detention center in Alvarado

Emerald Companies sold the city on the idea of floating debt to build the detention center.
In November, the 700-bed Prairieland Detention Center is scheduled to open in Alvarado, Texas, a remote town in Johnson County 40 mines southeast of Dallas. The facility will be operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private prison corporation that manages six other facilities and has faced allegations of mistreatment of detained immigrants and shady contracting practices at other facilities.

 

The detention center will include a 36-person unit specifically designated to detain transgender immigrants, a practice that LGBTQI advocates decry as inhumane because transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults while in custody. Olga Tomchin, a staff attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Fusion, “ICE has shown over and over again that they’re incapable of detaining trans people with even minimal levels of dignity or safety.”

In June 2015, as county officials were breaking ground for the new detention center in Alvarado, 35 U.S. Representatives sent a letter to to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging him to end the detention of LGBTQI individuals. An excerpt from the letter reads, “These individuals are extremely vulnerable to abuse, including sexual assault, while in custody, in particular, transgender women housed in men’s detention facilities.”

Prairieland will be the second facility with an ICE contract in Johnson County, where the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center also currently detains immigrants for the federal agency. According to the Cleburne Times Review, Commissioner Rick Bailey was concerned that the county should not rely on two ICE facilities given the volatility of immigration laws. “I am concerned about ICE going away,” Bailey said in a Johnson County Commissioners meeting in early 2015.

These concerns are not unfounded, as Emerald suddenly pulled out of a contract with LaSalle County for a detention center in Encinal, Texas in late 2014 after the facility’s population decreased. This left the county with $20 million in debt, and county officials scrambling to run the facility without the resources or corrections knowledge for the job.

Despite the risks and opposition from some local officials, as well as national LGBTQI and immigrant advocates, the county approved the contract and the facility is slated to open in November 2016.

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Cleveland, TX mayor and residents successfully oppose new detention facility

On August 18, Cleveland, TX Mayor Niki Coats announced at a city council meeting that a private prison operator had withdrawn plans to build a new immigrant detention facility. 

Cleveland Mayor Niki Coats
Cleveland Mayor Niki Coats

The news drew cheers from more than two dozen residents who showed up to protest. 

One week earlier, private prison contractor, Emerald Companies, had asked the city for a letter of intent. Coats refused to sign, saying, "It's not the kind of growth in the community we need."

Coats later explained that Emerald withdrew the plan claiming they had another location in mind. 

When the Cleveland Advocate asked other Texas county judges about the impact on counties of building immigrant detention facilities, Polk County Judge Sidney Murphy had this to say:

"According to Murphy, in Polk County, the IAH Detention Facility operated by MTC of Utah and built a little more than 10 years ago is required to pay the county a per diem fee per inmate. However, the population of the 1,000-bed facility is so low, with only 300 beds being used, it is no longer generating any income for the county.

“'Why build a 1,000-bed facility when there is one less than 30 miles down the road that has only 300 beds being used?' Murphy asked."

Burnet County Judge James Oakley said after his county entered a 20-year revenue bond deal with a private prison company, the deal eventually went belly up, leaving the county with lost revenue and a facility that was much bigger than necessary. 

It seems the Cleveland mayor and residents may have helped save Liberty County from similar fates.

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Small Arizona town profits from family detention in Dilley

On August 5th, in the midst of the legal battle concerning the fate of immigrant families currently locked up awaiting their asylum hearings, News 4 Tucson investigators shined a spotlight on how a small Arizona town is cashing in on the detention of immigrant women and children in Dilley, TX.

CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX
CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX

The report broke down the agreement between the City of Eloy, AZ, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). 

After the surge of Central American immigrants arrived at the Texas border last year, CCA rushed to build the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. According to ICE spokesperson, Adelina Pruneda, 

"The contracting process for the Dilley facility was necessarily accelerated in response to the 2014 humanitarian crisis of families entering through the Texas Rio Grande Valley from Central America.  To accelerate the lengthy contracting process, ICE modified an existing contract with the City of Eloy, Arizona, to operate the Dilley facility. Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) has been contracted by the City of Eloy to provide day-to-day operation of the residential facility."

There was no bidding process and the city of Eloy gets fifty cents per bed per day to be the “fiscal agent”, amounting to around $438,000. 

Meanwhile, at ICE’s Phoenix office, activists held a protest calling for justice for immigrant detainees who have died in ICE custody at the Eloy Detention Center. 

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Immigrant mothers on hunger strike in Karnes family detention center say they face intimidation and retaliation

Last week immigrant mothers detained at Karnes Detention Center near San Antonio told reporters that they faced retaliation after declaring a hunger strike to demand their release and protest the conditions in which they and their children are being held.

Advocates say that although 40 to 45 women initially began participating in the hunger strike, that number decreased after three women perceived as leaders were placed in isolation in a dark medical clinic with their children overnight on Monday.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is expected to investigate these allegations.

There are also reports that facility guards threatened women participating in the strike with deportation or having their children taken away. Additionally, there are anecdotal reports that all food was cleared from the fridges, even for those women who were not fasting, and that facility officials tightly monitored calls and cut off any conversation that mentioned the hunger strike.

One San Antonio paralegal was accused of inciting the protest and has been banned from the facility, despite multiple statements from both the women inside and advocates that the detained mothers are acting of their own accord. The hunger strike spanned 4 days, from the morning of Tuesday March 31 to Saturday April 4.

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