Low Detention Numbers Pose Unique Opportunity to Shut Down Architecture Used to Abuse and Traumatize Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas today calling for the closure of 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. ACLU supporters will also be messaging Secretary Mayorkas to call for the closure of these detention facilities.

“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 an easy decision. 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’s 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.”

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.

Fiscal Year 2020 was the deadliest year in ICE detention in 15 years. Last year alone, we saw 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 well-being 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 rates lower than we’ve seen in two decades. There are currently more than 15,000 people detained — this is just over 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 Sherburne 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.

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