Shut Down Glades Coalition Update: Five Wins and the Road Ahead

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MIAMI (July 7, 2022) — Following news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined to extend its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention contract with Glades County, the Shut Down Glades Coalition celebrates the following five wins achieved by sustained pressure over the past year and a half in its fight to close Glades County Detention Center:

  1. Zero people are currently in ICE custody at Glades County Detention Center;

  2. ICE announced it has “paused” its use of the detention facility;

  3. ICE did not renew the 300-bed “guaranteed minimum” provision of its contract with Glades County—cutting a key component of the detention facility’s financial viability—following pressure from the coalition and dozens of members of Congress;

  4. The coalition stopped the deportation of five Liberian men who were part of a pending civil rights investigation, and two of those individuals were later released;

  5. ICE acknowledged the severely inadequate and dangerous medical care at Glades as a factor in its decision to stop its use of the facility.

Located in Moore Haven, Florida, the remote detention facility is currently being used to detain people in the custody of the U.S. Marshals despite its extensive record of human rights abuses, including racist violence, sexual abuse, the use of toxic chemical sprays and fatal medical neglect, among other harms.

Although ICE acknowledged that the inhumane treatment of people at Glades was severe enough to pause its operations at the detention facility, ICE declined to fully terminate its Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with Glades County, leaving the door open for future use.

Members of the Shut Down Glades Coalition, an alliance made up of local advocates, community members directly impacted by detention and local and national civil rights organizations, offered the following reactions and reiterated their demand to fully and permanently shut down Glades County Detention Center so that no person is held there.

“It was an amazing feeling to raise up the voices of those in detention and to show the injustices and discrimination that go on in detention centers. Glades employees and ICE employees have done so much covering up, but what is done in the dark should come out to light. It was a great pleasure to be part of that light,” said Eric Martinez, a formerly detained leader now organizing with Immigrant Action Alliance.

“I feel glad and relieved that ICE is no longer using Glades,” said Petrona Lopez, one of the women previously detained at Glades who came forward to file a civil rights complaint last August. “This accomplishment was very much needed, since nobody deserves to be detained and not have the proper medical care and food that they need. But Glades and all detention centers should close for good. We all want to be free.”

“Throughout my work to close Glades, I was in contact with many of the women who were detained there over the years,” said Maria Asuncion Bilbao, Florida campaign coordinator with American Friends Service Committee. “These women showed immense courage in speaking out about the horrific conditions they had been subjected to while in detention. Unfortunately, these conditions and abuses continue in many other detention centers in Florida and elsewhere. All immigrants in detention centers across the country must be released. Going forward, we will continue to be guided by the mission of liberation for all people, and so we will continue this fight until all are free from the horrors of detention.”

“Throughout this campaign, people from local organizations have shown up in person to monitor conditions at Glades, build community with detained people, speak at county meetings, hold local press conferences and vigils, show up unannounced at the ICE field office to demand a halt to deportations, and creatively protest outside of the jail,” said Rebecca Talbot, campaign organizer with Immigrant Action Alliance. “Those who have made the trip through the Everglades and sugar cane fields to finally arrive in remote Moore Haven, Florida, have a sense of the isolation people inside must feel and the way the location’s remoteness gives the staff at Glades a sense of impunity. Our community’s action, alongside national partners, has been invaluable in achieving the wins we celebrate today. Over the course of the campaign, we have seen how ICE carries out its worst plans when they think no one is watching. But we are still watching. We will keep fighting until ICE ends the contract fully and forever.”

“The indefinite end of ICE’s operations at Glades is a clear testament to the dedication and bravery of everyone who has spoken out against the cruelty at Glades and within ICE’s nationwide detention system, especially those who have advocated for change from inside ICE detention centers. Together, with immigrants detained at Glades, advocacy organizations, members of Congress and supporters nationwide, we’ve been able to stop ICE from detaining people at Glades County Detention Center,” said Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Florida. “However, our work is not over. ICE’s decision to remain in a contractual relationship with Glades County leaves the door open for ICE to resume its operations in the future at a facility riddled with pervasive abuse and inhumane treatment of immigrants. Our mission remains the same: to permanently close Glades for all immigration detention once and for all. We will also continue to fight for justice for individuals who were harmed while detained at Glades and for those transferred to other unsafe detention facilities, like the Baker County Detention Center and Krome North Processing Center, where people in detention and advocates continue to report abuses against immigrants.”

“As we celebrate these wins, we want to highlight the courage and resistance of our clients and all directly impacted people whose leadership through civil rights complaints, litigation, hunger strikes and other actions has been critical to ensuring ICE no longer detain people at Glades,” said Andrea Jacoski, director of the Detention Program with Americans for Immigrant Justice. “We believe that a just immigration system is free of detention, where people can resolve their immigration cases from the safety of their communities with the resources they need, and where legal counsel and services are meaningfully available. We will continue to demand that ICE free all people who were transferred from Glades to ICE prisons across the country so that they no longer face the life-threatening dangers of ICE detention. We continue to push back against so-called alternatives to detention, continued systems of surveillance and electronic ankle monitoring. We will not settle and trade one system of oppression for another. ICE and the deportation machine continues, and we will both cherish these victories and be mindful of the remaining work to be done.”

“Our people-powered campaign to shut down Glades has run ICE out of the jail at Glades County, showing the true strength of our communities,” said Sofia Casini, director of visitation advocacy strategies with Freedom for Immigrants. “While we celebrate the fact that ICE has heard our demands and paused its operations at Glades, our work is not over. Regardless of whether ICE or another agency holds the keys, the Glades jail will perpetuate this country’s shameful, racist and dehumanizing systems of mass incarceration for as long as it remains standing. We all deserve to live in freedom and dignity, which is why we will continue to fight to close down all detention centers and seek freedom for everyone caged.”