NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement by the Department of Homeland Security that it plans to close the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, end a detention contract and 287(g) agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts, and initiate a review of ICE detention facilities nationwide.
“Today’s announcements show the Biden administration’s willingness to decisively break from the immigrants’ rights abuses of prior administrations,” said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU. “Far more can and must be done to pull the plug on a system that has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars and inflicted trauma and profound harm on hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their loved ones. To realize the promise of these reforms, the Biden administration must ensure that today’s announcements mark the first in a series of steps to shutter ICE detention sites and end 287(g) agreements nationwide. And as ICE detention sites close, the Biden administration must release the individuals detained there — rather than transfer them to detention sites elsewhere, which risks stranding these individuals far from their families and lawyers and exposes them to continued risks from COVID-19.”
“Irwin County Detention Center is notorious for its dehumanizing and nightmarish conditions, including pervasive medical neglect and horrific reports of forced sterilizations. Likewise, the Bristol County sheriff has embraced the 287(g) program as part of an anti-immigrant agenda that has included attacking detained immigrants and denying them adequate food and medical care. We welcome the Biden administration’s move to address two prime examples of the cruelty and senselessness of our country’s immigration system — but these are not outliers, they are part and parcel of a racist and broken system that needs to be reformed from the ground up. That starts by shutting down ICE detention sites throughout the country and ending the 287(g) program once and for all.”
Last month, the ACLU sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling for the closure of 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, including Irwin County Detention Center and Bristol County House of Corrections, as a starting point toward ending the mass criminalization and default incarceration of undocumented immigrants.
The ACLU has also called on President Biden to follow through on his pledge to “[e]nd the Trump administration’s historic use of 287(g) agreements,” which delegate certain federal immigration enforcement authorities to state and local police.
The ACLU of Massachusetts sued the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) for information about a violent incident that occurred at the BCSO’s immigration detention facility that resulted in the hospitalization of three people detained there. In an investigative report, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey found BCSO had used dogs and pepper spray on immigrants potentially infected with COVID-19.