WASHINGTON — The ACLU sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas today calling for the closure of 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, including six facilities in Texas.
“These ICE detention centers in Texas have demonstrated complete disregard for the health and dignity of people in detention,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “The pandemic devastated many detention centers due to ICE’s failure to implement basic protective measures. Immediately closing them is a critical step that the Biden administration needs to take to ensure immigrants in Texas and elsewhere are treated with dignity.”
In addition to the letter, ACLU supporters will also be messaging Mayorkas to call for the closure of these detention facilities. The ACLU is calling on the Biden administration to close detention facilities that meet the following criteria:
1. As found by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), opened without adequate justification, in violation of ICE’s own process for obtaining new detention space;
2. In remote locations with compromised access to legal counsel and external medical care; and/or
3. With documented patterns of inhumane treatment or conditions.
Following are the six facilities in Texas:
- The Bluebonnet Detention Facility in Anson, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include serious failures during the pandemic, and its remote location away from immigration attorneys. Bluebonnet had one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks among ICE detention centers in the country, with at least 409 confirmed cases as of April 2021. One former guard said it was clear that COVID-19 was “gonna spread like wildfire” due to the facility’s failures to quarantine and to provide masks. This facility is located 200 miles west of Dallas.
- The El Valle Detention Center in Raymondville, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include detainees going on hunger strike to seek access to cleaning supplies and soap. El Valle had more than 213 cases of COVID-19, in a major outbreak consistent with the lack of sanitation. This facility is located 45 miles north of McAllen, Texas.
- The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include reported coercion of detainees to work for extremely low wages on the threat of solitary confinement and repeated reports of sexual assault. The ACLU has previously filed litigation challenging the conditions at Hutto. This facility is about 33 miles north of Austin, Texas.
- The IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility (Polk) in Livingston, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include appallingly inadequate medical care and extensive use of solitary confinement. This facility is about 75 miles north of Houston.
- The Montgomery ICE Processing Center in Conroe, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include dangerous and unsanitary conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have led to at least 314 confirmed cases. The ACLU has sued ICE over this detention center’s dangerous conditions, including the facility’s practice of cohorting those exposed to COVID-19 together. This facility is about 40 miles north of Houston.
- Prairieland Detention Facility in Alvarado, Texas, has been selected for shut down for reasons that include unsafe conditions that have allowed COVID-19 to run rampant at the facility. At least 180 people have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. This facility is about 40 miles southwest of Dallas.
“The Biden administration was elected with a mandate to fix our broken immigration system, and immigrant detention is an early test of its resolve,” said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU. “Closing detention sites should be a no-brainer. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted to maintain thousands of empty beds and keep asylum seekers and immigrants in inhumane and life-threatening conditions. The number of detained people is currently lower than it has been in two decades: President Biden has a unique moment to shrink the infrastructure that’s been used to abuse and traumatize immigrants for decades. It’s time to end our nation’s newest system of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.”
Fiscal year 2020 was the deadliest year in ICE detention in 15 years. Last year alone brought reports of increased use of force, solitary confinement, patterns of sexual abuse, forced sterilization, and an utter failure to protect people from COVID-19. ICE’s extreme recklessness in handling the COVID-19 virus showed the blatant disregard it had for the health and wellbeing of detained people, as well as the extent to which it was willing to lie or obfuscate to avoid accountability.
Through COVID-19 related litigation, advocacy, and the shutdown of asylum under the Trump administration, detention rates dropped to the lowest recorded rates in two decades. There are currently roughly 14,000 people detained on an average day — a quarter of the people who were detained at the peak in 2019. ICE is currently wasting over $1 million a day on guaranteed minimum bed space that isn’t being used. The ACLU’s list is intended as a starting point for the administration to begin ending the mass criminalization and default incarceration of undocumented immigrants.
Below is the full list of facilities the ACLU is calling to shut down:
1. Etowah County Jail, Alabama
2. Eloy Detention Center, Arizona
3. La Palma Correctional Center, Arizona
4. Adelanto Detention Center, California
5. Desert View Annex, California
6. Imperial Regional Detention Facility, California
7. Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, California
8. Otay Mesa Detention Center, California
9. Yuba County Jail, California
10. Baker’s County Sheriff’s Office, Florida
11. Glades County Detention Center, Florida
12. Krome North Service Processing Center, Florida
13. Irwin County Detention Center, Georgia
14. Stewart County Detention Center, Georgia
15. Allen Parish Public Safety Complex, Louisiana
16. Catahoula Correctional Center, Louisiana
17. Jackson Parish Correctional Center, Louisiana
18. LaSalle ICE Processing Center, Louisiana
19. Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, Louisiana
20. Richwood Correctional Center, Louisiana
21. River Correctional Center, Louisiana
22. South Louisiana Correctional Center, Louisiana
23. Winn Correctional Center, Louisiana
24. Bristol County House of Corrections, Massachusetts
25. Calhoun County Correctional Facility, Michigan
26. Adams County Detention Facility, Mississippi
27. The Shelburne County Jail, Minnesota
28. Otero County Processing Center, New Mexico
29. Okmulgee County Jail, Oklahoma
30. Clinton County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania
31. Pike County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania
32. York County Prison, Pennsylvania
33. Bluebonnet Detention Facility, Texas
34. El Valle Detention Center, Texas
35. T. Don Hutto Residential Center, Texas
36. IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility, Texas
37. Montgomery ICE Processing Center, Texas
38. Prairieland Detention Facility, Texas
39. Farmville Detention Center, Virginia
The letter is online here.