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|12/2: ACLU: End private contract for Otay Mesa immigration detention
Released 16 December 2016  By Kate Morrissey - The San Diego Union-Tribune
ACLU: End private contract for Otay Mesa immigration detention
Kate Morrissey - The San Diego Union-Tribune
December 2, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Friday for an end to contracts with four private detention facilities used for immigration enforcement, including the Otay Mesa Detention Center.
The ACLU said the facility in Otay Mesa, along with the South Texas Detention Complex, Eloy Detention Facility in Arizona and Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, have “the most notorious records of sexual abuse, detainee deaths and denial of medical care.”
The Otay Mesa contract expires next year at the end of June, according to the ACLU.
The recommendation came after a report released on Thursday that recommended the department continue using detention facilities run by private contractors, despite a move elsewhere in the federal government away to bring operations in house.
The report by a subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council was requested by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, after the Department of Justice announced in August that its prisons would move way from private operators.
The subcommittee suggested sticking with private operators.
“Much could be said for a fully government-owned and government-operated detention model, if one were starting a new detention system from scratch,” the report says. “But of course we are not starting anew.”
The report gave higher costs-per-detainee at government-owned facilities and sudden spikes in detention needs as reasons to continue relying on the private detention system.
The full advisory council on Thursday focused on the report’s findings that conditions for detainees were better in government owned and directed facilities.
Seventeen of 23 members present at the meeting voted to endorse parts of the report and reject the main recommendation. They favored a dissenting footnote written by Marshall Fritz, a subcommittee member who was a fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
“A measured but deliberate shift away from the private prison model is warranted,” Fritz wrote.
One member voted against the entire report, and the other five voted in favor of it.
According to Joanne Lin, who works out of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C., office and was present for the debate, council members favored parts of the report that recommended increased inspections and limiting the use of county jails for immigration detention.
In a letter to the subcommittee, Lin said that in 2014 a community group visiting detainees in Otay Mesa heard about alleged sexual assault, neglect and harassment happening in the facility, run by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America or CCA.
“After being informed of the potential abuse, ICE tried to end the visitation program completely unless the group was willing to sign a confidentially agreement that would require them to ‘defend’ and ‘indemnify’ ICE and CCA from any liability ‘arising’ out of their volunteer work,” Lin wrote.
Lin said Johnson was present for the meeting. The ACLU wants him to take action on the four facilities before President Barack Obama leaves office in January.
“I think the message delivered to him was loud and clear — a strong majority of HSAC doesn't think it is acceptable for DHS's use of private prisons to continue as is, and DHS should shift away from the private prison model,” Lin said.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative said in response to the report and vote, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appreciates the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s recent review of the agency’s use of private contract detention facilities. The council’s report recognizes ICE’s ongoing commitment to providing a secure and humane environment for those in our custody while making the best use of agency resources. ICE’s civil detention system aims to reduce transfers, maximize access to counsel and visitation, promote recreation, improve conditions of confinement and ensure quality medical, mental health and dental care.”
“ICE leadership will review and consider the council’s recommendations and will implement any changes, as appropriate,” the ICE official said.
Imperial County’s immigration detention facility is also a private facility run by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation. The ACLU did not recommend any immediate changes to that contract.
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