Immigrant detention centers have faced harsh criticism from immigrant advocates, and human rights groups for their harsh conditions. As one temporary facility in New Mexico is shuttered early, a new center opens in Texas. The Texas detention facility will be for immigrant families, and will be the largest of its kind in the country. However, the harsh conditions at the facility and past claims of abuse continue to follow the private prison operator who will take over the new detention center.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it is ready to open the largest immigration detention center for immigrant families. Dilley, Texas will now be home to a mega-detention center. The facility will cover over 50 acres, with beds for 2,400 people. The center is privately contracted to be run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA runs a number of detention centers across the country, including those at Eloy and Florence, Arizona.
CCA has a long history of complaints. They have also been on the defensive in a number of lawsuits. Allegeations against CCA include terrible living conditions, inadequate food, and physical and sexual abuse. In Artesia, one child reported being raped only to have officials say there was nothing they could do about it. There have also been a dozen deaths of immigrants reported at the Eloy, Arizona facility alone.
A Frontline investigation found that while over 170 complaints were filed by immigrant detainees against guards, very few were ever investigated by DHS. Only 15 cases showed an investigation. Anthony Romero, with the American Civil Liberties Union called the issue a wide phenomenon. “We know there are many more cases that don't get investigated, where people do not get held accountable for the abuse or the rape of immigrants.”
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Women's Refugee Commission authored a report on the U.S. practice of mass detention centers for immigrant families. Titled “Locking Up Family Values Again,” the report called the government's family detentions an inhumane practice. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has alleged guards working at the Karnes detention facility, operated by another private prison contractor, were requesting sex from detainees in exchange for favors.
The former temporary immigration detention center in Artesia, New Mexico has now been closed, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The final detainees, a couple dozen women and children, were transferred out of the Artesia center to a permanent immigration detention facility in Karnes, Texas. The Artesia center opened earlier this past summer due to the surge in immigrant families coming to the U.S. from Central America. Of the 1,262 immigrants who were held at the Artesia center, 370 were deported.
Some immigrant rights advocates are happy to see Artesia closed, but it does nothing to prevent the problems or fix conditions at the other detention centers across the country. Leslie Holman, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has spoken out against the treatment these immigrants seeking asylum. “Doesn't that tell the administration that these most vulnerable of human beings deserve protection rather than warehousing as prisoners?,” said Holman.
Meanwhile, despite all the allegations of abuse and other violations, CCA will be charging taxpayers almost $300 per day for each person detained in Dilley, Texas, to the tune of $260 million per year.