DHS Plans to Review Private Immigration Detention Centers

In Press Releases


August 30, 2016

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RAICES’ Statement on DHS Plans to Review Private Immigration Detention Centers

Statement from Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

San Antonio, TX -- Today, Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the creation of a subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council to evaluate whether the Department of Homeland Security should follow the lead of the Department of Justice and discontinue the use of private prisons. This announcement comes as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is on track to close out 2016 with an average daily population of 34,000 individuals, up from 28,000 in fiscal year 2015. This announcement comes just weeks after ICE was soliciting proposals for 1,000 additional family detention beds in the State of Texas.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) coordinates the Karnes Pro Bono Project at the Karnes Family Detention Center, a facility that has earned the GEO Group $57 million since last November. Despite their claims to the contrary, our experience speaking with mothers and children detained in the GEO operated facility on a daily basis confirms that this private prison company is profiting while refugee mothers and children regularly complain of inadequate medical care, sexual assault, few resources for indigenous language speaking families, and an overall mockery of due process protections.

“Does it matter to whom we pay hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to intern peaceful, often vulnerable, human beings?” asked Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of RAICES. “The question we should be asking is: why would a great nation, built by immigrants, betray its fundamental ideal of ‘liberty and justice for all’ merely to line the pockets of a few, corporate elites?”

These issues will not be resolved by a review of the use of private detention. The 22 mothers on hunger strike in the county-operated Berks family detention center in Leesport, Pennsylvania are proof enough that the issue is not simply one of private versus public operators. Without a promise to drastically reduce detention beds, these efforts are futile. Detention is inappropriate for children. Detention is inappropriate for LGBTQ-identifying individuals. Detention is inappropriate for asylum seekers. Detention is inappropriate as a mechanism to enforce civil immigration violations. Detention is inappropriate for immigrants, regardless of whether it is privately or publicly operated. DHS should realign its enforcement policies with our nation’s highest values and make the detention of refugees and immigrants a tool of last resort.


RAICES serves immigrants and refugees in our community by providing immigration-related legal services, advocacy and opportunities for educational and social support. We believe that by actively promoting the well-being and informed participation of immigrants and refugees in the community, everyone benefits.


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