The construction of another immigrant detention facility in Karnes County, Texas, will not solve the human rights violations that these facilities are known for. It will not make immigrants in Texas safer, and it will not make our country any safer either. Last October, our own Verónica Bayetti Flores highlighted the continued importance of coalitions such as the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights that bring a gendered approach to immigration work. As many immigrant rights advocates intimately know and newspapers have reported, women suffer various cruelties, such as sexual abuse (see the article on the Hutto Residential Center by Colorlines), shackling during childbirth and lack of adequate and timely medical treatment while in detention.
Last year, ICE acknowledged the failings in the system and announced sweeping reforms, including stronger oversight of its facilities, greater reliance on secure release options, and the construction of more civil facilities, which, according to federal officials, would provide a less penal environment for detained immigrants. ICE claims that these new facilities will replace existing beds in problematic facilities, yet no commitment has been made to close a single bed in any location, and there has been no indication of when it might make such a commitment. The government also continues to seek partnerships with entities that have helped create this abusive and dysfunctional system.
This new facility will hold 600 beds and cost American taxpayers $32 million. The Geo Group, one of the largest for-profit prison corporations in the nation, will reap the awards of this contract. Immigrant women are increasingly detained because of increased workplace raids and simply because they have no legal status and no way to obtain and/or retain status. Women who only committed civil offenses (e.g., overstayed their visa or worked on a tourist visa) will walk the halls of the Karnes County facility and be treated as badly, if not worse, than citizen women who are convicted of more serious crimes.
We must continue to highlight the mistreatment of detainees in these detention centers, and stop their expansion and construction. To oppose the Karnes County facility, you can support Texans United for Families by signing their petition.
By Candace Gibson, Legal Intern