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News > U.S.

Immigration Centers, New 'Cash Cow' of Prison Industry: Report

  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Canton, Mississippi, U.S. in this August 7, 2019 handout photo.

    Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Canton, Mississippi, U.S. in this August 7, 2019 handout photo. | Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

Published 11 December 2019

The report also reflected the deplorable state of these detentions throughout the country.

An investigation led by the well-known civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center on immigrant detention centers in Florida showed seriously substandard conditions in health services, as well as the confinement and isolation of undocumented immigrants.

US Advocacy Group Launches 'Quit ICE' Initiative

In a report released Tuesday, the SPLC condemned, among others, the failures in medical care, inadequate mental health service, discrimination against people with disabilities and excessive use of solitary confinement.

The organization, together with Americans for Immigrant Justice – which also participated in the investigation – lamented that immigrant arrests in the country have "skyrocketed" this year and detailed several cases based on interviews with detainees in South Florida.

At Krome detention center, a detained person with HIV said he had not yet seen a doctor after four months of detention. The same person was later diagnosed with hepatitis A, which he believed he had contracted from eating unwashed food served at the facility.

“I’m just trying to stay alive,” he said.

At Monroe center, another undocumented person said he found a friend – who used a wheelchair and had a history of strokes – dead in his cell.

At Glades center, a detainee was diagnosed with uterine cancer but said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service could not schedule a follow-up appointment for almost a month.

“I’ll probably be deported before getting any type of (cancer) treatment,” she said.

A gay man detained at Broward described harassment that led him to attempt suicide.

“I don’t know what’s worse, this or death," he said.

The SPLC noted that it was "inexcusable" that detainees had to endure such conditions.

It also criticized that “immigration prisons are the new cash cow for the incarceration industry” by detailing that ICE's contract to retain undocumented immigrants currently reached an average daily rate of US$280 per person.

Some facilities, such as Glades, do the job for US$81 a day – or even less.

"This has encouraged a sprawling network of immigrant prisons," the SPLC said.

The SPLC also added that one day last August, ICE had confined over 55,000 undocumented detainees, an increase from five years ago when it had about 30,000 people locked up in its facilities.

"The United States operates the largest immigrant detention system in the world,” the report said.

As of April 2019, Florida had the sixth-largest population of people detained by ICE in the United States, it added.

ICE detains more than 2,000 immigrants daily in the state of Florida, which houses around 20 percent of the country's incarcerated immigrants.

These arrests mainly took place in four centers in South Florida: Krome, owned by ICE, Broward Transitional Center, operated by the private company GEO Group, and the detention centers in Glades and Monroe counties.

"The nation’s immigration detention centers are little more than immigrant prisons, where detained people endure harsh – even dangerous – conditions," said the SPLC.

According to the advocacy group, ICE reported two deaths in detention centers in South Florida in 2018. One was Luis Marcano, 59, who died despite complaining of abdominal pain after just over a month at Krome, and another was Wilfredo Padron, 58, who suffered from hypertension and pancreatitis and died after two-and-a-half months in Monroe county.

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