DHS Shutters Migrant Detention Centers Accused of Abuse, Misconduct

DHS Shutters Migrant Detention Centers Accused of Abuse, Misconduct

An asylum-seeking migrant from Honduras holds his son as they awake at sunrise next to others who took refuge near a baseball field after crossing the Rio Grande river into the U.S. from Mexico, in La Joya, Texas, March 19, 2021. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Two immigration detention facilities will close amid investigations into accusations of misconduct and abuse at the sites, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday.

DHS said it will no longer use the two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-run facilities: C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Bristol County, Mass. and the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.

The Biden administration said the Bristol facility, which is run under an agreement with the local sheriff’s office and is currently holding seven detainees, is “no longer operationally necessary.” The Irwin facility has 114 detainees.

Last year, a whistleblower claimed a doctor had performed unwanted hysterectomies on female inmates at the Irwin facility. The doctor has denied any wrongdoing.

Other allegations claimed the facility was operating under unsanitary conditions.

The DHS Office of Inspector General is investigating the claims. 

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office is under investigation after staff allegedly used pepper balls and a flash-bang against detainees who hurled chairs at staff during an argument over covid-19 testing and isolation, according to the Washington Post.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo to acting ICE Director Tae Johnson that “one foundational principle” of the department is that it “will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”

“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas said. “This marks an important first step to realizing that goal.  DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards.  Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.” 

The agency said it would preserve evidence for ongoing investigations and the transfer of detained migrants “whose continued detention remains necessary to achieve our national security, public safety, and border security mission.”

Johnson said in a statement that ICE “will continue to ensure it has sufficient detention space to hold noncitizens as appropriate.”

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