Immigration Detention Facility To Be Built in Crete, IL

 

Background:  From 2006 to 2011, approximately 2 million immigrants have been deported from the interior of the United States.  Deportations now approach 400,000 people annually.  Hundreds of thousands of families have been separated as a result.  As part of this massively heightened enforcement, on any given day, ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) holds over 33,000 immigrants in hundreds of detention centers across the country. [i]   ICE is using a growing number of privately-run facilities to house immigrant detainees, including building of some five new detention centers across the country.  Crete, Illinois is the proposed location for one of these new centers.

 

PEOPLE NOT CRIMINALS:  By ICE's own account, of the 396,000 people deported in FY 2011, 45% had NO criminal record.[ii]  Even those numbers are low/suspect:  ICIRR and other organizations found that of those counted as "criminals" are people who were convicted of driving without a license and other traffic-related misdemeanors.[iii]  The people being detained generally have no criminal record.

 

COMING TO CRETE:  The Corrections Corporation of America, an ICE contractor, is negotiating with the municipality of Crete to build a facility with 700 beds, all strictly for immigrants.  The construction of the new facility has the capacity to increase the total capacity of immigrant detention space in the Chicago ICE area by 50%.[iv]

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY:  Detention is big business for the contract facilities.  For example, one institution has costs of $55 per immigrant held, but is paid $95 per immigrant detainee per day by ICE to hold them[v] 

 

CCA, the contractor for the Crete facility, has a troubling history - a lawsuit was recently filed for CCA's "deliberate indifference" to one of its guards sexually assaulting nine immigrant detainees[vi]; rioting by inmates in CCA's Northfork, Oklahoma facility leading to the hospitalization of several inmates.

 

BEWARE THE "DETENTION-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX"[vii]:  Private business controls "nearly half of all detention beds" in the United States.[viii]  There are significant problems with privately-run detention centers, including CCA: 

  • Detainee deaths:  At least 22 immigrant detainees have died in the custody of facilities owned or operated by CCA.  Many died as a result of unattended medical issues, insufficient medical care or a complete lack of diagnosis.[ix]
  • Health care:  Profit creates a disincentive to treat or even diagnose detainees with health issues.  For example, in 2007 Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres died at the Eloy Detention Center died of testicular cancer. A fellow detainee later told Felix's relatives that a couple of weeks prior to his death, he lay pleading for medical help on his floor, unable to move.  Throughout Felix's two months at Eloy, the cancer was not diagnosed nor treated.[x]
  • Staffing:  Since private prisons are profit-driven, there is an impulse to reduce staff, and to reduce wages and training of personnel.  As a result, staff turnover rates in 2000 were 53% for private prisons versus 16% for public prisons; and wages for staff of private prisons were 25% less than those of public prisons.[xi]
  • Inappropriate relationships with government:  For example, Harlan Lappin, who personally oversaw tens of millions of dollars in contracts to CCA as the Federal Bureau of Prisons director, retired in May 2011. Three weeks later CCA announced that Lappin would become the new executive vice president and chief corrections officer for the company. Another example: Michael Quinlan, a former BOP director, left the agency after a sexual harassment scandal and subsequently took a senior position at CCA. He is now a senior vice president of CCA.[xii] This is not limited to relationships with the federal government but also with states:  two of Arizona governor Jan Brewer's staff are former lobbyists for CCA, which pushed for the passage of an anti-immigrant bill SB 1070.[xiii]
  • Transparency:   Private facilities are not subject to "sunshine laws" like the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") as governmental agencies are, even though they are conducting business for the government.  They are also protected from litigation through complicated contractual arrangements with the government.[xiv]  This has hampered oversight on problems in detention, for example, the death of Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres mentioned above was not listed among the deaths of detainees in CCA custody until the New York Times made inquiries into the matter.[xv]  In fact, because of intransigence in reporting, the Death in Custody Reporting Act has been introduced, passed the House, the Senate Judiciary Committee and is poised to become law.[xvi]

 

Furthermore, once a private facility is established, it drives interests that want to keep it full.  An example of this is the lobbying by prisons in California for the "three strikes" laws that hugely increased the prison population, as well as the state's budget.  CCA and other interests have already pushed for strict immigration policies - Between 1999 and 2009, CCA spent $18 million to lobby for the passage of federal laws as well as state laws including Arizona's SB 1070.[xvii]  CCA itself said, "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . ."[xviii]  Will CCA be seeking ever more draconian immigration laws to ensure that immigrant detention centers remain full or are even expanded?

 

DETENTION IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT PUNISHMENT:   Deportation is a civil process, not a criminal one, and as such does not constitutionally guarantee a lawyer if you can't afford one, nor does it include sentencing or punishment such as incarceration.  Detention is stated as a means to ensure that a detainee will appear in court or comply with the court's order.  However, this also means that since many individuals held in ICE custody are held at remote, isolated facilities - ill-equipped to deal with long-term detainees -  there is often very little programming available such as work, educational, and training activities.

 

THE IMPACT ON IMMIGRANTS:  The average stay for a detained immigrant runs from three to five weeks, but some immigrants may be held for several months, even years, unable to pay high bond amounts as they fight to stay united with their families in the US.[xix]  Conditions in detentions centers are problematic:  in the last 8 years 122 immigrants have died in detention, most from lack of medical care or something related.[xx]  Detention can limit access to legal services, medical care, ministry and family, as well as subject the person detained to abuse that is difficult to combat.  The impact on a person's morale alone can result in a person giving up her rights.  There are no penalties if an institution doesn't comply with the vague federal "standards" that govern conditions for detainees.  The time that an immigrant spends in detention can be the most significant of her life.

 

OUR CONCERNS:  The detention of immigrants should not be taken lightly.  A private institution may create ever worse conditions, ignore or conceal problems in detention in the pursuit of higher profits.  Adding an institution and another layer of bureaucracy between ICE and the detainee adds to the difficulty in addressing problems in detention.  Access to detainees by family, legal counsel, clergy and others is essential to the health and rights of people in detention.  This process needs to be open to the public and the communities concerned, including both the locality and those of the immigrants that the institution will house.

 

Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants:
Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Diocese of Joliet Peace & Social Justice Office, 8th Day Center for Justice, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, National Immigrant Justice Center, Office for Immigrant Affairs & Immigration Education - Archdiocese of Chicago, Priests for Justice for Immigrants, Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Sisters of Mercy, Southwest Organizing Project, Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, West Suburban Action Project "PASO"

 

 



[i] Exact number is 33,384.  See:  ICE Total Removals, through July 31, 2011, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/ero-removals.pdf.

[ii]   ICE News Release, "FY 2011: ICE announces year-end removal numbers, highlights focus on key priorities including threats to public safety and national security," October 18, 2011, http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1110/111018washingtondc.htm.

[iii]  See "Immigration Enforcement: The Dangerous Reality Behind Secure Communities," Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, January 2011, http://icirr.org/content/dangerous-reality-behind-secure-communities-illinois.

[iv]  The Chicago ICE area of responsibility includes Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin.   Total current capacity (as of July 16, 2011) is 1,437; the capacity at the facilities used for detainees in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin are as follows:  McHenry County - 315; Dodge County  - 222; Tri-County - 204; Kenosha - 184; Boone County - 153; Jefferson County - 103.  The balance is comprised of beds in county jails in Missouri and Kansas.

[v] Figure cited is for McHenry County Jail in "County jail boosts revenue with immigration detainees", By Brian Slupski, Northwest Herald June 22, 2009.  DOES SOMEONE HAVE BETTER NUMBERS OR SOURCES?

[vi]  "ACLU Files Lawsuit for Sexual Assault of Immigrant Women", My Fox Austin (Fox Channel 7), October 19, 2011,
http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/top_stories/ACLU-Files-Lawsuit-for-Sexual-Assault-of-Immigrant-Women20111019-ktbcw#

[vii] "Getting Tough On Immigrants To Turn a Profit", by Nina Bernstein, The New York Times, September 29, 2011,  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/29/world/asia/getting-tough-on-immigrants....

[viii]   Ibid.

[ix] List of Deaths in ICE Custody, October 2003 - July 28, 2011, Division of Immigration Health Services, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/reports/detaineedeaths2003-present.pdf.

[x] New York Times 8/21/2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/nyregion/21detain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

[xi] Detention Watch Network: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons#CCA.

[xii] Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amnesty-international/private-prisons-immigration_b_875946.html

[xiii] NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741

[xiv] Detention Watch Network: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons#CCA.

[xv] New York Times 8/21/2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/nyregion/21detain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

[xvi] "Bill poised to shed light on deaths in custody", by Alexa Vaughn, Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2011.

[xvii] Detention Watch Network: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons#CCA

[xviii]  Corrections Corporation of America, 2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K19 (2010) at 19-20, quoted in "Banking on Bondage:  Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration", ACLU Report, November 2, 2011

[xix] See:  ICE Total Removals, through July 31, 2011, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/ero-removals.pdf

[xx] See:   List of Deaths in ICE Custody, October 2003 - July 28, 2011, Division of Immigration Health Services, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/reports/detaineedeaths2003-present.pdf;

 

See also:

"Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail", Top of Form

Bottom of Form

By Nina Bernstein, New York Times, January 9, 2010; See also   www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/node/2383.

"Banking on Bondage:  Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration", ACLU Report, November 2, 2011, http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/bankingonbondage_20111102.pdf.

"Who Benefits When A Private Prison Comes To Town?" Weekend Edition, National Public Radio, November 5, 2011, http://www.npr.org/2011/11/05/142058047/who-benefits-when-a-private-prison-comes-to-town..

 

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