Amid Abuses and Mounting Community Pressure for Closure, ICE Cancels Key Provision of Detention Contract with Glades County

Following the transfer or release of all remaining individuals under its custody from the Florida detention center, ICE announces end of “guaranteed minimum” agreement 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2022
Contact: news@aijustice.org

MIAMI — This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transferred all remaining individuals in its custody out of the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida, and on Friday announced it will not renew a key provision of its contract with Glades County that required payment for 300 beds in the facility, also known as a guaranteed minimum.  The agency also announced it would be “pausing” its use of the jail as an immigration detention center. 

The development comes after years of numerous complaints at the detention center, citing pervasive and fatal medical neglect, unlawful use of toxic chemicals, racialized violence, inhumane treatment, physical abuse, sexual misconduct, and repeated attacks on the dignity and safety of individuals at Glades. 

People formerly detained at Glades, along with congressional representatives and the Shut Down Glades Coalition, are calling on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Biden administration to fully terminate the contract and permanently close the detention center. 

“My time at Glades County Detention Center was one of the worst experiences in immigration detention. I experienced constant abuses at Glades, in addition to unprofessional and racist treatment,” said Bel’Or Mbema Mapudi Ngoma, who was recently transferred from Glades. “The xenophobia I experienced at Glades reflects the limited vision of the world at places like Glades. Thus, Glades must close rather than continue to subject people to inhumane conditions, which would be a step in the direction of a vision of a world where all people are treated with humanity.”

“We’ve arrived at this critical moment due to years of relentless organizing, public testimony and peaceful resistance by people inside Glades and their advocates in the surrounding communities,” said Sofia Casini, Director of Visitation Advocacy Strategies at Freedom for Immigrants. “Now it’s time to finish the job. Through our monitoring of immigration detention, we have documented that ICE often empties detention centers in the face of public scrutiny only to refill them months later under a veil of secrecy. We won’t let that happen here. Reform is not possible. This has been proven time and again. The Biden administration must cut the Glades contract before it’s up for renewal next month. This is the moment to side with communities, dignity and human rights. This is the moment to permanently shutter this abusive detention center before more people are harmed.”

“Emptying Glades, ending the guaranteed minimum, and requiring Glades to fully address conditions that do not meet detention standards are all huge steps in the right direction,” said Rebecca Talbot, Glades Lead at Immigrant Action Alliance. “This is the result of tireless work by advocates, as well as detained people and their families who have taken great risk to speak out. Now it’s time for the Biden administration to commit to closing Glades fully and forever, and to release those who have been transferred from Glades to other facilities. ICE acknowledges ‘ongoing concerns’ with medical care, and the logical next step is to release those who continue to suffer from the harm inflicted on them at Glades.”

“I applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to stop sending immigrants to the Glades facility. For months, my Congressional colleagues and I joined with advocates to emphatically press to have this facility shuttered, and while this stops just short of that, the controls I expect to be announced later today would take a very strong step towards ensuring that immigrants will no longer suffer at this site,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said. “The long, disturbing record of inhumane treatment at this facility demands this move. I will continue to closely monitor this contract, and press for its complete termination.”

“All ICE detention is cruel, inhumane and beyond repair. The Biden administration must terminate the contract for Glades County Detention Center and shut it down for good as a step towards ending all ICE detention. We demand the just closure of Glades, including freedom for those who were transferred from Glades to other ICE facilities,” said Setareh Ghandehari, advocacy director of Detention Watch Network. “Instead of incentivizing the incarceration of immigrants as a money-making scheme for corporations and local governments, the government should invest in resources that communities actually need and provide incentives for communities to move away from economies dependent on the suffering of people in immigration detention and towards economies that create opportunities for whole communities to thrive.”

“Through dozens of complaints, the ACLU of Florida and other members of the Shutdown Glades Coalition have informed ICE about the horrific conditions and systemic human rights abuses happening at Glades. Staff members at the facility have also deleted video surveillance footage contrary to federal law that could help substantiate these claims,” said Katie Blankenship, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Florida. “We are pleased to hear that operations at the facility are paused, but the detention facility needs to be shut down permanently. The Glades County Detention Center has proven time and again that it is unable to continue operating in a legal and humane manner, and we join the calls from members of Congress, immigrants, and advocates to urge ICE to shut down Glades for good.”

According to the Florida Detention Database, more than 75 complaints documenting abuse at  Glades have been submitted to DHS. Some of the most alarming events include: four immigrants who were hospitalized due to toxic levels of carbon monoxide; nine African immigrants who experienced cruel physical violence; and two immigrants who attempted suicide after being held in solitary confinement. Women at the detention center also report an appalling pattern of sexual misconduct by male guards, including unannounced entries into living areas and sexual voyeurism. 

People formerly detained at Glades, their loved ones and the Shut Down Glades Coalition continue to call for just closures of immigration detention centers like Glades. These closures should include safely releasing and reuniting people with their loved ones, not transferring them to other harmful facilities. DHS has the authority to end the human rights abuses at Glades by not refilling the jail, terminating the contract with Glades County and immediately releasing all those who were detained there but remain in ICE custody. 

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