Our recent blog post detailed some of the problems and changes affecting a new family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. Now, officials are planning a new family detention center for immigrant children and families in Texas. The center will be run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. Combined with the government's new “no bond” policy, this has resulted in an industry making lots of money from the recent immigration humanitarian crisis.
Fighting complaints of poor conditions, inadequate food and supplies, and lack of due process in the Artesia, New Mexico family detention center has not prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from going forward with still more family detention centers. The Observer has reported federal plans for a new center for holding immigrant children and families southwest of San Antonio, Texas.
The 50-acre property is currently part of a community used to house oilfield workers. The property is to be leased to ICE, with the detention center to be run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The location currently has space to hold 680 people, and more buildings will be built to eventually house up to 2,400 individuals.
CCA operates many prisons, and a dozen or so immigration detention centers across the country, including the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, and the Eloy Detention Center. CCA also operated the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center, which was the focus of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union for subjecting children to prison-like conditions. The government eventually removed the children from the center, facing allegations of human rights abuses at the former prison. The center remains, but no longer houses child immigrants.
Speaking on behalf of ICE, Nina Pruneda said the new family detention center will be used to “to accommodate the influx of individuals arriving illegally on the Southwest border.” These immigrants have come primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, fleeing violence and drugs in their home countries.
ICE is now seeking a no bond policy for immigrants detained at the new 537-bed detention facility in Karnes, Texas. According to ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda, “bond decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on considerations of risk of flight and public safety.”
However, it appears that in practice, ICE is requesting no bond or high bond without regard to the person's flight risk. Some believe the practice is meant to discourage the immigrants from seeking asylum. Other practices which create difficult living conditions include the prison-like conditions of the detention centers, which in part led to closing the Hutto family detention center, operating at $200 per day for each person detained.
Immigrants' rights advocates have criticized the choice of contracting with CCA to operate this new and largest family detention center. However, CCA remains the largest private prisons operator in the United States. With immigration detention costing an average of $120 per day, combined with a no bond policy which would extend detention time, CCA and other private companies stand to make huge profits from the immigration crisis.