If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.
–James Pendergraph, then Executive Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008.
This quote is from The Nation article on the existence of 186 secret ICE detention centers. The lack of an accurate database of detainee information as well as governmental oversight allows for cover-ups, the continuation of detainee abuse and secret detention centers, is how ICE makes people “disappear.”
According to the article, the purpose of these secret jails is to hold detainees that are in transit between detention centers; these spaces are not meant to be used as living facilities and lack basic necessities such as beds, showers, adequate ventilation and heating, personal hygiene supplies and are often filled to capacity. It has been reported that up to 30% of all ICE detainees are held in these unofficial detention centers and that the private contractors who run them make a profit of $60-90 a day per detainee.
Since these private, make-shift prisons are completely unmarked and unlisted they are not only exempt from ICE standards but inaccessible to lawyers and family members searching for loved ones. Their locations, which ICE refuses to disclose, vary from suburban business complexes and storage warehouses to units in trendy Manhattan neighborhoods.
The use of secret prisons, withholding of due process and abuse of undocumented citizens is unconstitutional, yet has remained the core of the U.S. immigration system since the Bush administration and now under the Obama administration.
By Marcela Villa, Former Policy Intern