“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

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Sadat Ibrahim Files Lawsuit for Prolonged Detention

This month, San Antonio Express-News covered the story of Sadat Ibrahim, a gay asylum seeker from Ghana, who has filed a lawsuit with several other immigrants against Immigration and Customs Enforcement for holding asylum seekers in “onerous conditions” to deter them from pursuing their claims.

The lawsuit states that the government is subjecting immigrants “to such prolonged and harsh detention conditions that they will eventually, in despair, relinquish their petitions and return to their dangerous homelands.” Ibrahim has been detained for over two years, has been repeatedly transferred, and currently is detained in South Texas Detention Center operated by GEO Group. Ibrahim’s case shows that it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain the evidence and legal representation needed to win asylum while detained. In his case, the detention center also withheld the evidence of a CD containing a video of anti-gay gangs attacking his partner.

The article further details the terms of the lawsuit: “In their lawsuit, Ibrahim and three other asylum-seekers held in South Texas — a man from Honduras, who’d been in detention in Port Isabel since April after requesting asylum because his two brothers were killed, agreed to return home and was dropped from the case in January — allege that their continued detention violates their right to due process. None of them is a flight risk or danger to the community, the lawsuit argues, yet they’ve been in detention for a year or more. Lawyers representing them included in court filings affidavits by doctors who said the immigrants are suffering physical and psychological maladies because of their extended detention.”

Ibrahim has faced retaliation within the center for actions by advocacy groups to pressure for his release, as he was placed in isolation. Our original story about Sadat Ibrahim from September 2017 details more background on his case.

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State Senator Bribery Trial Delayed

The bribery cases against State Senator Carlos Uresti and former Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo continue in their profiting from Reeves County Detention Complex. KSAT reported developments this month that Uresti was scheduled alongside businessman Vernon Farthing to be tried in May. As of March 19, according to San Antonio Express News, Uresti’s trial has been delayed until October.

Since we first reported in May 2017, Galindo pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, according to KSAT. Galindo was the Reeves County Judge until December 31, 2016. Galindo led Reeves County to submit a proposal to the Bureau of Prisoners to win the contract in 2006 to house federal prisoners including immigrants. The Reeves County Detention Complex, located in Pecos, Texas, now houses 1,356 prisoners in its R-3 facility under the Criminal Alien Requirement.

The lawsuit outlines that in August 2006, Galindo, Uresti, and Farthing secured the medical contract for Farthing’s company, Physicians Network Association (PNA), hiring Uresti as a “consultant.” In September 2006,  Galindo signed the contract on behalf of Reeves County to PNA. From September 2006 to September 2016, PNA and its successor companies paid Uresti approximately $10,000 per month. Uresti awarded approximately half of the bribe money to Galindo.

While Uresti and Galindo await trial, Reeves County’s prisons remain historically known for their shocking abuses, including the overuse of solitary confinement and overcrowded prisons. Prior to closing its R1 and R2 facilities, it was ranked among America’s 10 Worst Prisons by Mother Jones.

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Audit Reveals ICE Failed to Follow Procurement Guidelines, High Cost for Texas Detention Center

The Texas Monitor reported this month that an audit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed financial irresponsibility that cost detainees and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General states that ICE used the town of Eloy, Arizona as a middleman to contract with CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) for more detention beds in Texas. In 2014, when a surge of unaccompanied minors and families arrived to the United States from Central America, ICE demanded for more capacity to detain adults and minors in Texas. This wayward procurement led the way for CoreCivic to operate South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, now the largest detention center in the country.

The audit states: “Although ICE could have contracted directly with the private company that operates the South Texas Family Residential Center, CCA, it instead created an unnecessary ‘middleman’ by modifying its existing [agreement] with Eloy. Eloy’s sole function under the modification is to act as the middleman between ICE and CCA; Eloy collects about $438,000 in annual fees for this service.”

The audit also questions why families have children have been detained in Dilley when the agreement called for Eloy to operate a facility for adults, a “substantially different” term for modification.

We reported in August 2015 that Eloy was profiting from the contract with CoreCivic. Since then, South Texas Family Residential Center has been under fire from immigrants and advocates. In December 2017, a letter from the Women’s Refugee Commission and several coalition partners to the Office of the Inspector General raised concerns for the emotional toll of separating families, as parents and children have been divided between Dilley and other facilities. This private prison has also been flagged for making kids sick, detaining pregnant women, and violating immigrants’ due process rights.

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Lawsuit against CoreCivic Condemns Forced Labor

Hutto Detention Center has been in the spotlight since three women came forward last November to report complaints of sexual assault at the hands of guards in the facility. Now, a class action lawsuit against Corecivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) has been filed by Martha Gonzalez on behalf of detainees who have been forced to work in Laredo Detention Center and Hutto Detention Center. The lawsuit claims that the facilities have unlawfully forced detainees to work in violation of the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act.


According to the Austin American Statesman, the lawsuit states, “CoreCivic threatened detainees who refused to work with confinement, physical restraint, substantial and sustained restrictions, deprivation, violation of their liberty and solitary confinement. CoreCivic made frequent examples of individual detainees who complained or refused to work.”

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for their labor and to be paid “under the minimum wage and overtime guarantees of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

This case is one of many that seeks to take down private prison companies for profiting off immigrant labor. Private prisons usually pay immigrants $1 per day for their work to maintain the facility, only increasing corporate profit. GEO Group currently faces two similar class action suits since the first of its kind was filed in March 2017. While GEO Group tried to dismiss the case, a federal judge ruled that Washington State can pursue its lawsuit for detainees to be paid minimum wage for their work.

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