Calls to Close GEO Group’s “Deplorable” Immigrant Detention Center

by Vins

Immigrant justice and human rights organizations are calling for the closure of a detention center for immigrants in Karnes County, Texas, due to its “deplorable” conditions, Candace Bernd reports for Truthout. The Karnes County ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention center was expanded over the summer to house children and families.

Sixty percent of the detained families fled Latin American due to violence or the threat of it, and they have legitimate claims to asylum, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee office in Washington, DC. In the center, however, reports indicate that children are losing weight, and many families face threats of separation unless they accept voluntary deportation.

The center is owned and operated under contract with ICE by Florida-based GEO Group, which is the second-largest private prison corporation in the United States. Annual profits at the Karnes detention center rose from approximately $15 million to $26 million after the company converted the center to detain children and families, Bernd reports. GEO Group has been criticized in the past for conditions and practices in facilities it owns and operates. In a number of cases, these have led to lawsuits and hunger strikes.

In September 2014, President Obama announced that he was going to delay executive action on immigrant reform, much to the dismay of multiple immigrant-rights organizations. In the meantime, families like those detained in the Karnes County ICE center to suffer in limbo, while GEO Group and its shareholders profit. Also in September, ICE officials confirmed plans to build a new immigrant-family detention center in Dilley, Texas. When it is complete, the South Texas Family Residential Center is expected to hold 2,400 refugees arriving from Central America and it will be the fourth such detention center in the US.

Source: Candace Bernd, “Call to Close ‘Deplorable’ Private Detention Center for Immigrants Made, as Expansion Planned,” Truthout, September 14, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26358-call-to-close-deplorable.

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