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Immigration quietly increasing number of migrant families detained

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.

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2 private prison guards indicted in Texas

Two ex-guards at a private immigrant detention facility were indicted today in San Antonio, reports KVIA ABC-7.

A federal grand jury indicted Barbara Jean Goodwin, accusing her of having sex with a detainee between February and August of 2016. If found guilty, she faces up to 15 years in prison. The grand jury also accused Ray Alexander Barr of providing methamphetamine and alcohol to prisoners on December 27. If found guilty, he could get up to 20 years in prison.

Both Goodwin and Barr were guards at the Central Texas Detention Facility, located in San Antonio. The facility is run by the GEO Group, which is a private company that operates immigrant detention facilities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE bans Crayons at Karnes County Residential Center

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is restricting young children in an immigrant detention center from playing with crayons, reports the Guardian.   

The restriction comes after staff members at the Karnes County Residential Center accused the children of destruction of property. A spokeswoman for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) said the detention center staff enforced the ban after accusing children of damaging a table while their parent received legal advice. In a statement, ICE said that the children caused property damage to the contractor.

Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group, a for-profit prison corporation. Since last November, GEO has made over $57 million from the center, as reported by the San Antonio Current.

A spokesperson from GEO said that crayons were allowed in other sectors of the facility, but not in the visitation area. However, some parents are already noticing the difference in their children from not being able to use crayons during visitation. One 23-year-old detained mother said banning her children from drawing with crayons was already having an adverse effect.

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Immigration agency expands family detention facilities

The San Antonio Express reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently extended the contract at the South Texas Family Residential Camp in Dilley, Texas until 2021.

The detention center in Dilley, which is run by Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), is used to detain Central American mothers and children who are seeking asylum.

This comes as the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, is reviewing whether they should follow the Department of Justice's decision to phase out the use of private prison corporations. "I don’t know what they’re thinking, to be honest with you,” Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program for the Women’s Refugee Commission, said of ICE’s renewal of the Dilley contract.

The new contract, though for the facility in Texas, is actually passed through an existing contract with the city of Eloy, Arizona.  The U.S. government will pay about $13 million a month for the facility in Dilley, which is about half of the previous payment.

ICE has also said that they are reviewing proposals for an additional 2,500 family detention beds at various sites. GEO Group, the private prison company that runs the Karnes County family detention center, said that they will propose taking a portion of the new beds that ICE are seeking.

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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.

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ICE detainee dies away at West Texas hospital

A statement released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that a woman from the United Kingdom in the custody of ICE has died in a West Texas hospital in Haskell.

Olubunmi Toyin Joshua, 54, detained in the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell, Texas, was found unresponsive in her cell the night Oct. 24 and was immediately taken to Haskell Hospital. Her cause of death will be determined by a pending autopsy. Joshua is the first detainee to die in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, though not the first to die in ICE custody in 2016. 11 people have died in ICE custody in 2016.

The Rolling Plains Detention Center is operated by the Emerald Company, a for-profit prison company.

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ICE Renews Private Contract to Run Largest Family Detention Center

According to Huffington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revised and renewed its' contract with a private company to keep operating the country's largest family detention center. 

ICE renewed the contract with Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) to run the South Texas Family Residential Center for another five years. The contract renewal comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would phase out their use of private prisons. While this announcement did not affect immigrant detention centers, such as the South Texas Family Residential Center, it did cause the Department of Homeland Security to review whether ICE should follow through with the DOJ decision to phase out using private prison companies. 

Under the renewed contract CCA will receive less money to run the facility. However, CCA will receive payment regardless of how many beds are filled at their facility. The contract is scheduled to last until September of 2021, but ICE does have the option to cancel it with 60 days' notice.  

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Federal Judge bans ICE detainers on immigrants

Public News Service reported that a federal judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to stop requesting that certain inmates who are up for release be detained longer to determine their immigration status.

This ruling adds more intensity to the debate in Texas and other states over so-called 'sanctuary cities', in which local officials have no connection with ICE, therefore creating a safe space for undocumented immigrants. The order bars ICE from requesting that local jails detain possible deportable individuals for 48 hours, when they would otherwise be able to leave, in order to check their immigration status. Immigration advocates have long said that ICE detainers are illegal and used to detain people stopped for minor offenses. 

Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said "In Dallas County, the sheriff said she wouldn't be honoring some detainers, and in Houston, there's been a very active campaign to try to convince elected officials there to end detainers." He then said ""We do believe that there seems to be growing momentum against these things."

ICE officials were reached for a comment but declined to respond. 

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Limestone County still paying bills on empty private prison

In February, we reported that Limestone County officials had hopes of reopening the shuttered Limestone County Detention Center by potentially contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The private prison for immigrants, owned by the county and operated by Management and Training Corporation, has been empty since 2013.

On March 24th, according to a report from the Groesbeck Journal, rather than discussing the reopening of the facility, Limestone County Commissioners were asking why the county should be paying invoices for costs associated with the empty prison rather than the prison operator. 

According to the report:

"The county paid three invoices in 2015, totaling $464, but has now received two new invoices, one for $1,250 and another for $40.

“Why should we pay these?” asked Commissioner Pct. 2 W.A. “Sonny” Baker, pointing out that the invoice was addressed not to the county but to a company that ran the prison previously.

Commissioner Pct. 4 Bobby Forrest noted the same thing, that the invoice was marked “Attention: Mike Sutton,” the name of the man who ran the prison for many years through Continuing Education Centers, then later through a company he formed.

The commissioners agreed to delay a decision on paying any more invoices until they are certain it's a final bill. 

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South Texas officials working to reopen scandal-ridden Willacy County prison

Tent City
Tent City
Willacy officials are working to reopen the troubled Willacy County Correctional Center by winning a new federal, state, or local contract, according to a report by KRGV.

The prison, known as Tent City because of its construction out of Kevlar tents, was destroyed last year after an uprising by immigrant prisoners in protest of conditions at the privately operated facility in February. The prison, run by Management & Training Corporation (MTC), was closed due to significant structural damage causing the relocation of 2,500 federal prisoners and nearly 400 employee layoffs. The economic ripple effect in the area didn't end there, with job losses in the private and government sectors following the prison closure. 

The facility had been operating under "Criminal Alien Requirement" to incarcerate immigrants for the Bureau of Prisons.  

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