Immigration Detention Contracts Cancelled in Georgia and Massachusetts
by Daniel A. Rosen
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently ordered two civil immigration detention facilities closed and terminated the contracts for both. DHS said the Carreiro Detention Center in Bristol County, Massachusetts and the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia were “no longer operationally necessary,” according to an agency official.
Both centers have been the subject of complaints about the conditions of confinement. The Massachusetts jail has been accused of inhumane conditions, abuse and neglect of detainees, and overcrowding. The Georgia facility was accused of failing to follow COVID-19 protocols, and abusive medical practices.
In announcing the closures, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “Allow me to state one foundational principle: We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.” Mayorkas went on to say that “We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system. This marks an important first step to realizing that goal.”
In Massachusetts, the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has come under federal scrutiny for its management of the ICE contract. The state’s Attorney General, Maura Healey, also found in a 2020 report that the BCSO violated the rights of detainees in response to a disturbance that year. The AG’s office put forward a series of reform recommendations to address systemic issues at the jail and address detainees’ rights, including that DHS terminate the Sheriff’s contract.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is well known for being as brutal as he is reactionary. His response to news of the contract termination: “Shame on Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas for putting his left-wing political agenda above public safety by ending the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said. “This is nothing but a political hit job orchestrated by Sec. Mayorkas, the Biden administration and other anti-law enforcement groups to punish outspoken critics
and advance their partisan agenda to score political points.” If that does not endear him to ICE nothing will.
“We commend DHS for ending its partnership with [BCSO], which has a long history of abuse and neglect of immigration detainees,” said Healey in a statement. The state’s ACLU director, Carol Rose, also said, “The end of the ICE contracts with Bristol County is a long overdue and critical step in decoupling Massachusetts law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren also spoke for the state’s congressional delegation in saying, “My colleagues and I commend [DHS’] decision to end its immigration-detention contracts with [BCSO]. This is a just and humane step, and a victory for the detainees, families, lawyers, and advocates who pushed for accountability.”
In Georgia, advocates have spent years documenting abuses since the facility opened in 2010. The closure is a major win for those detained there and for organizations fighting to shut it down. Irwin is the number one detention center on Detention Watch Network’s #FirstTen in the “Communities Not Cages” campaign demanding the shutdown of ten immigration detention facilities in the first year of the Biden administration.
The Georgia announcement comes just months after detainees and a whistleblower employee filed a shocking Inspector General complaint with DHS about abuses at the facility. Among the more disturbing allegations were descriptions of a pattern of “unnecessary and invasive gynecological procedures performed on women held at the facility without informed consent.” The accounts of medical abuses garnered national headlines and a congressional inquiry. The last immigration detainees left the facility on September 3, 2021.
Priyanka Bhatt, of the advocacy group Project South, said, “For over a decade, LaSalle and ICE have ignored, threatened, and even attacked immigrants at Irwin in an attempt to silence them.... Today matters because the people suffering abuse at Irwin have been seen.”
The director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Adelina Nicholls, said, “Today’s closure marks an important step in the right direction—but this country’s disgraceful practice of profiteering from locking people up lives on.”
Sources: atlantadailyworld.com, nbcboston.com