September 29, 2014 – AI Justice Calls for Government to Stop Plans for New Privately-Run Detention Center for Families
Statement from AI Justice Executive Director, Cheryl Little, Esq.
Miami, FL – Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company, to open a 2,400 bed facility in remote Dilley, Texas, to detain immigrant families. Private prison companies like CCA have been widely criticized for their questionable practices and abuses of detainees over the years. In 2009, federal officials stopped detaining immigrant families at the CCA-run T. Don Hutto facility in Texas following a 2007 lawsuit alleging that children detained there were held in deplorable conditions.
Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is urging The Obama Administration to cancel their plan to open the Dilley Detention Center and to close currently operating detention centers in Artesia, New Mexico and Karnes County, Texas. Families detained there include mothers and young children fleeing horrific violence that governments in their Central American home countries are unable or unwilling to control. They include survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, human trafficking and gang violence. They arrive at our borders seeking refuge and instead are traumatized again by their treatment at the hands of our government.
In Artesia and Karnes County, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has initiated a no-release policy for persons already determined to have a credible fear of return while their cases are pending, based on a disingenuous post 9/11 ruling by then Attorney General John Ashcroft. DHS claims that detention in instances of mass migration is critical for purposes of national security. In 2003, this same argument was used by Ashcroft to keep Haitian asylum seekers in prolonged detention.
Persons in detention are far less likely to have access to legal representation, especially while detained in remote facilities. Even those with compelling cases have little to no chance of winning their case without an attorney.
It is estimated that the Dilley Facility will cost US taxpayers over $260 million a year. Alternatives to detention are proven to be effective and far cheaper. If ICE were truly focused on detaining and deporting dangerous criminals it would save more than a billion dollars annually.
The Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to the compelling reasons mothers and innocent children are fleeing Central America. Opening a new mega facility to detain them, callously arguing that their release poses a threat to our national security, and creating an immigration court “rocket docket” for arriving children effectively denies deserving immigrants due process and is morally reprehensible. The Administration needs to do what’s right rather than caving in to political pressure.
Moreover, the federal government should ban the use of private contractors for detaining immigrants. Currently, about half of ICE detention beds are managed by private companies. Meantime, private prisons should be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws and contracts with private prisons must include oversight mechanisms with contract termination a clear consequence of violations.
For additional information, see AI Justice’s Report – Broward Transitional Center: A ‘Model’ for Civil Detention