The Obama administration on Monday unveiled a former oil field workers’ camp in rural South Texas that’s being converted into the nation’s largest family immigration detention center, as federal authorities brace for the possibility that mothers and children may again come pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited the 50-acre compound featuring 80 tan, two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottages connected by dirt roads and newly laid grass sod in Dilley, about 70 miles southwest of San Antonio.
The first wave of about 30 immigrants will begin arriving in coming weeks and the cabins will eventually hold up to 480 people. Housing being constructed nearby will push capacity to 2,400 by around May.
Advocates say immigrant families are often fleeing drug or gang violence in Central America and should be released to relatives already in the U.S., rather than being locked up. The daily cost of family detention is about $296 per person, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nearly double the average cost of holding adults as estimated by the National Immigration Forum advocacy group.
Women and children at Dilley will remain until they are deported, released on bond or begin immigration court proceedings that could allow them to stay in the United States. ICE says 70 percent of immigrant families released into the U.S. never showed up for follow-up appointments — part of the reason the agency is adding detention capacity.
Dilly’s cottages include bunk beds and cribs that can sleep up to eight, a flat-screen TV and a kitchen — though cooking is prohibited to prevent fires. The cafeteria is open 12 hours daily and snacks can be had around the clock.
There’s medical care and counselors, trailer classrooms, library and email access and a basketball court and playgrounds — all meant to showcase the softer side of immigration detention. Yet Johnson stressed that despite President Barack Obama’s recently announced executive actions on immigration, anyone who crossed illegally into the U.S. this year remains a priority for deportation.
Who Profits From Locking Up Illegals?
The government chose Corrections Corporation of America to operate the new detention center. CCA got its start in Texas three decades ago when it scored a contract for a federal immigration detention center in Houston. It’s now the largest private prison operator in the country. CCA has been sued a number of times for negligence, abuse and other mistreatment. The company is currently under investigation for allegations of fraud and corruption at the Idaho Correction Center.
CCA has profited handsomely from the criminalization of noncitizens, but its record on immigration detention is particularly poor. The government stopped holding families at a CCA-run detention center in Taylor, Texas, in 2009 after the company was sued for mistreating women and children, some of whom reported that they were forced to wear prison uniforms. In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union released records of 185 allegations of sexual abuse at CCA detention centers over four years; fifty-six of the reports came from facilities in Texas.
Even before the government’s contract with CCA for the Dilley center was announced there were questions about the deal. According to a Texas nonprofit, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency did not take public bids before it signed up CCA. That the government and the company are tight is not particularly surprising, as CCA has vastly outspent other private prison companies on lobbying.
CCA was profiting from the refugee crisis at the border before the Dilley deal, too. Investors anticipated that the surge in migrants would necessitate new detention services; CCA’s stocks went up by 8.5 percent in August, compared to a 1.5 percent rise in the S&P. “Investors see this as an opportunity. This is a potentially untapped market that will have very strong demand,” Alex Friedmann, an activist investor who holds CCA stocks, told CNN Money.” ICE paid CCA $290 million for the first year’s expenses.
Well, would you look at that? A potentially untapped market and it has a very strong demand.’ In other words, we’ve found another way to milk the taxpayers while providing huge kickbacks to the government folks.
According to NPR, construction companies (who mysteriously bypassed the normal bidding procedure), broke ground in October and installed those 80 new modular buildings, sandwiched between the workers’ camp and a prison. So for the AP author to make it sound like the government just did a few renovations to an existing site is a complete falsehood.
The government is spending our money like there’s no tomorrow and stomping all over free enterprise in creating new markets. Meanwhile we have FEMA camps, that we also paid for, sitting empty when they could be using them.
Renovation or new construction??