The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted with a private prison company with a history of abuse to build a new immigration detention center in Karnes County, Texas. The center is meant to hold asylum-seekers and other low-level immigration detainees.
Today, more than 33,000 people languish in the U.S.'s vast and troubled immigration detention system, with more than 10,000 immigrant detention beds located in Texas alone. Despite a mandate for detention reform, ICE has contracted with the GEO Group, a for-profit prison company with a long track record of abuse and mismanagement at their Texas prisons and detention centers, to build this "civil" detention center.
The GEO Group has had a number of contracts in Texas terminated in recent years after serious allegations of abuse and neglect.
New, abusive for-profit detention centers are not the answer! Sign the petition to tell Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to stop construction of the new detention center in Karnes County, Texas, and to prioritize release and alternatives to detention programs for asylum-seekers and other immigrants.
ICE has stated that the Karnes County detention center will detain asylum-seekers and immigrants at the lowest level of immigration custody. Private prison contractor GEO Group will build and operate the facility under contract with Karnes County.
I am disappointed that ICE is using its mandate for detention reform to construct new detention facilities for people who should be released on bond or into alternatives programs. Instead of building new immigration detention centers, the administration should prioritize release of immigrants pending hearings, and the use of more humane and more cost effective alternatives to detention programs.
I am also troubled that the process in selecting the site and contractor for the facility has consistently lacked transparency and input from communities in Texas. Community members first found out about the facility’s construction after the GEO Group issued a press release in December 2010. The County Judge Alger Kendall told residents during a Karnes County Commissioners’ Court hearing that “The federal government said this was not to be discussed by anyone,” a statement that hardly reflects a commitment to effective oversight and transparency when making a decision where people’s lives are at stake.
Furthermore, the GEO Group, the private prison company contracted to build and operate the facility, has a long track record of abuse and mismanagement at their Texas prisons and detention centers. While ICE has denied knowledge of problems at GEO’s facilities, the company’s problems have been repeatedly highlighted in public news reports. The GEO Group has had a number of contracts in Texas terminated in recent years after serious allegations of abuse and neglect.
In February, a coalition of 15 Texas-based civil and immigrant rights organizations sent you a letter calling on you to immediately end the contract to build the new Karnes County detention center and to investigate options that would prioritize alternatives to detention for asylum seekers and those immigrants that pose no security threat.
I urgently add my voice to that call.