Conditions at immigration detention centers continue to grow worse as immigration proponents demand action to improve the facilities.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has already closed several detention centers and has advocated for immigrants saying in a memo, “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
The Biden administration said it would remedy the problem by reducing detention, with nonprofits like the American Civil Liberties Union cheering the idea.
ICE and private operators that run the facilities like GEO Group and CoreCivic have been bogged down by repeated allegations of abuse.
Conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, were so poor the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General “recommended, and continue[s] to recommend, the immediate relocation of all Torrance detainees unless and until the facility ensure adequate staffing and appropriate living conditions,” reported the Hill.
The conditions were so bad, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari stepped in and recommended the detainees be removed “immediately”; however, the order was not followed through, and ICE continued to utilize the facility, according to The Hill.
Innovation Law Lab investigated the conditions from January to February and found “the men are subjected to conditions worse than those that formed the basis for the DHS Office of the inspector general’s recommendation to end operations at Torrance in March 2022.”
The report details “a disturbing picture of the conduct of U.S. Government officials and CoreCivic employees who manage the facility.”
CoreCivic is a private entity that maintains many of the U.S.’s detention and correctional centers.
A spokesperson for the company said the reports are “inaccurate and misleading,” The Hill reported.
These problems are not exclusive to CoreCivic’s Torrance facility.
Early this month, 85 detainees at GEO Group’s Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) went on a hunger strike, according to the report.
Advocates at the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights have been calling attention to the facility since 2017, The Hill report added.
A spokesperson from GEO said the hunger strike was from a group of “detainees that were behaving in a disruptive manner, barricading themselves inside of their housing unit, and blocking security cameras … We strongly reject allegations, which are clearly part of a politically motivated and choreographed effort to abolish ICE.”
Amid the reports of poor conditions, GEO and CoreCivic deflected blame onto ICE, according to The Hill.
ICE detention centers cost taxpayers nearly $3 billion annually. Its facilities host 25,978 people a month, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
Immigrant advocates believe the incarceration of migrants is unjust and that there are alternatives, such as electronic surveillance through ankle bracelets.
This week, House Democrats called for the Biden administration to provide more funding to the Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP), which grants legal assistance to migrants for deportation hearings.
Regardless of these initiatives, detainments have been steady under the Biden administration. At the end of January, TRAC recorded 24,170 detainees. Of that number, 14,732 had no criminal record.
Detainees complain not just of the general living conditions but of cruel treatment, use of solitary confirmed, and criminal gangs. Immigration advocates point to the system rather than the law, which is designed to protect the immigrant and the citizen.
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