August 22, 2016
Latino Leaders Urge President Obama to Close Privately-Operated Immigrant Detention Centers
After Announcement That Federal Bureau of Prisons Will Stop Contracting With Private Prison Operators, NHLA Asks That Decision Be Extended to Immigrant Detention Centers
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation's preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, today released a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to direct the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement to no longer allow private for-profit prison companies to operate immigrant detention centers. Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it would no longer contract with private corporations for federal prison facilities. The announcement followed an Inspector General’s report that found severe and dangerous deficiencies in those facilities.
"NHLA was pleased by the announcement that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will move to reduce, and, ultimately, eliminate contracts with private prison corporations. These companies turn a profit by allowing deplorable and inhumane conditions to overtake their facilities; the same is true at privately operated immigration detention facilities. We urge the Obama Administration to extend its decision to include them," said Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
“Immigrants in civil detention should receive far better treatment than that afforded by for-profit prison operators,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, Vice Chair of NHLA and MALDEF President and General Counsel. “As abhorrent as immigrant detention in general is, allowing someone to profit from it is wholly reprehensible, particularly after the Department of Justice’s own findings of major problems at for-profit prisons housing convicted criminals.”
“Immigrant women, children, and families, many of whom are seeking asylum in this country deserve better than to be detained – some for as long as a year – in conditions found by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General to not maintain an adequate level of safety and security,” stated Hispanic Federation’s President Jose Calderon. “If these conditions are deemed inadequate for criminals, how can we justify them for individuals who have not been charged with or committed any crimes? The Department of Homeland Security should follow the example of the Department of Justice and immediately begin phasing out the use of private contractors in immigration detention cases."
The full text of the letter is below.
August 22, 2016
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Reducing Use of Private Prisons for Immigrant Detention
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 leading national Latino nonpartisan civil rights and advocacy organizations, we strongly urge you to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end their engagement with private prison corporations and the use of private contractors and subcontractors for immigration detention facilities.
On August 18, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was directing the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to stop renewing contracts with or to dramatically reduce use of private operators of federal prison facilities. This is a welcome step toward ending the use of private prison corporations to operate federal correctional facilities, and one that NHLA strongly supports.
This month, the U.S. Inspector General’s (IG’s) office released a report noting that the three companies contracting with the BOP—Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and Management and Training Corporation—were running facilities that were less safe and secure than those government-operated. These facilities include low-security Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons, which mostly house individuals with criminal immigration violations and are known to have deplorable conditions. The IG’s findings that private prisons house general population inmates in solitary confinement based on bed shortages, and for extended periods of time, and the increased use of lockdowns in CAR facilities, illustrate the poor management by private operators.
These same private companies are also running immigrant detention facilities—housing men, women, and children—and the DOJ’s recent announcement does not change this fact. DHS detains approximately twice the number of inmates in BOP custody, and most facilities are privately operated. ICE contracts directly with private companies and also with states and local governments who in turn subcontract to private prison operators.
While DOJ and BOP work to reduce the use of private prisons in the criminal justice system, these private operators continue to run facilities detaining individuals with no criminal convictions in prison-like conditions, including babies only months-old. This system often re-traumatizes individuals fleeing extreme violence in their home countries, and with grave consequences.
DHS’s increased detention of immigrants in response to the number of Central Americans coming to the U.S. to seek asylum has created a windfall for private prison companies. CCA was awarded a $1-billion contract to operate a 2,4000-bed facility in Dilley, Texas. GEO Group runs a 532 bed facility in Karnes, Texas. These facilities house mothers and children seeking asylum, often for prolonged periods, and amidst growing reports of inadequate or negligent care, abuse, and sexual misconduct. Many facilities have also seen a string of hunger strikes by immigrants protesting poor conditions and mistreatment.
CCA-operated Eloy Detention Center in Arizona is a particularly atrocious example of the care immigrant detainees receive in private facilities. Between 2004 and 2015, 14 detainees died in the Eloy facility. Out of those deaths, seven were ruled suicides and occurred while a guard failed to monitor the detainee. In total, as of June 2015, there have been 32 deaths at CCA-operated immigrant detention facilities. The majority of these deaths resulted from medical issues or suicide. The federal government has failed to provide proper oversight of these private facilities, with what appears to be little regard for the well-being and rights of immigrant detainees in the government’s care.
Your administration’s recognition that the private prison companies “compare poorly” to and do not provide the “same level of safety and security” as facilities run by the BOP is in stark contrast to the increased amount of business between the government and these contractors in the immigration context. The continued use of private prison companies to run immigration detention centers would reflect deplorable and deliberate indifference in the face of DOJ’s critical findings in the related BOP context. We urge you to direct DHS to end privately-operated immigration detention facilities by ceasing direct contracting with private prison operators and ceasing contracting with states or localities that subcontract with private prison operators.
Thomas A. Saenz
MALDEF, President and General Counsel
NHLA Immigration Committee Co-Chair
Hispanic Federation, President
NHLA Immigration Committee Co-Chair
Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to the President
Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy CouncilFelicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor
Julie Rodriguez, Deputy Director of Public Engagement
Jeh C. Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Sarah Saldaña, Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
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ABOUT THE NATIONAL HISPANIC LEADERSHIP AGENDA
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is composed of 40 of the leading national and regional Latino civil rights and public policy organizations and other elected officials, and prominent Latinos Americans. NHLA coalition members represent the diversity of the Latino community – Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Latino Americans. NHLA’s mission calls for unity among Latinos around the country to provide the Latino community with greater visibility and a clearer, stronger influence in our country’s affairs. NHLA brings together Latino leaders to establish policy priorities that address, and raise public awareness of, the major issues affecting the Latino community and the nation as a whole. For more information, please visit: www.nationalhispanicleadership.org.
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