Washington, DC —Today, more than 45 non-governmental organizations that work in Texas sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to use their oversight authorities to investigate Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) attempt to evade procurement law and disregard community opposition to contract extensions in Texas for immigration detention.
On November 21, 2019, ICE published a solicitation notice for three 10-year contracts for federal detention facilities within the Enforcement and Removal Office’s Houston and San Antonio Areas of Responsibility. The request is tailored to three existing facilities in Texas: the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, and the Houston Processing Center in Houston. In 2019, these facilities detained almost 22 percent of the average daily population (ADP) in Texas. All three are known to have facilitated family separations, as well as a wide range of mistreatment and abuse, including deaths and sexual assault.
The letter outlines the following abuses specific to the immigrant detention facilities:
The Houston Processing Center, currently operated by CoreCivic is the first private prison ever built in the United States. Since 2003, the Houston Processing Center has reported at least nine deaths in which ICE’s own investigations have identified more than a dozen violations of government detention standards with no record of improvement.
T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which detains women, is currently in litigation for not releasing the contract between ICE and CoreCivic after Williamson County Commissioners voted to terminate their agreement with ICE. The T. Don Hutto facility is currently operating in secrecy and has blocked community leaders from visitation to prevent any form of documentation. The facility has a long history of abuse including multiple sexual assaults by guards since 2010 and forced labor allegations currently in litigation.
The South Texas Detention Complex, operated by the GEO Group, has subjected immigrants to indefinite solitary confinement, often as a form of retaliation. In 2018, the South Texas Detention Complex was identified as one of the top 15 immigrant detention centers with the most placements in solitary confinement.
“If ICE is able to secure these contracts in Texas, it will mean extending the harm of this administration far beyond Trump’s term in office, further binding Texas—currently the leading immigrant incarcerating state in the country—to an already massive for-profit detention system for the next decade,” said Bethany Carson, Immigration Policy Researcher and Organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “Despite ICE’s legal requirements of the federal procurement process detailed in the letter, ICE has continued to operate in secrecy to maximize profit for private prison companies and expedite expansion while evading oversight mechanisms and congressional accountability.”
“Death and ongoing allegations of abuse should be enough of a reason to close down these facilities full stop,” said Barbara Suarez Galeano, Organizing Director of Detention Watch Network. “ICE is already overspending the ever-increasing funds that Congress allocates for its detention account and asking to be bailed out each fiscal year. We must recognize ICE’s constant, often unchecked, exponential growth of the immigration detention system for what it really is: a wholesale attack on immigrants under a white supremacist administration.”
The full text of the sign-on letter can be found here.
Among the organizations calling for the investigation are Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership, RAICES, the Texas Organizing Project, the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaboratives, and others.
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.