SAN DIEGO —Today, the ACLU sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling for the closure of 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, including the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and the Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico, Calif. ACLU supporters will also be messaging Sec. Mayorkas to call for the closure of these detention facilities.
“Time and time again, the immigration detention facilities in San Diego and Imperial counties have proven to be unsafe, abusive and unable to uphold the due process rights of the people trapped inside, said Monika Langarica, the immigrants’ rights staff attorney for the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC). “It is past time to bring an end to the shameful practice of detaining immigrants in our region and across the country and embrace a policy of humane and fair processing.”
The ACLU is calling on the Biden administration to close detention facilities that meet the following criteria: facilities that opened without adequate justification — in violation of ICE’s own process for obtaining new detention space — as found by the Government Accountability Office (GOA); facilities in remote locations with compromised access to legal counsel and external medical care; and facilities with documented patterns of inhumane treatment of people who are/have been detained or detaining people in inhumane conditions.
Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) was selected because of documented patterns of abuse, mistreatment and misconduct at the privately-run facility. The Imperial Regional Detention Facility was selected in part because of its remoteness to critical legal resources and support systems which effectively restricts access to fundamental due process protections.
“The Biden administration was elected with a mandate to fix our broken immigration system, and immigrant detention is an early test of its resolve,” said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU. “Closing detention sites should be a no-brainer. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted to maintain thousands of empty beds and keep people seeking asylum and immigrants in inhumane and life-threatening conditions. The number of detained people is currently lower than it’s been in two decades: President Biden has a unique moment to shrink the infrastructure that’s been used to abuse and traumatize immigrants for decades. It’s time to end our nation’s newest system of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.”
Last week, the ACLUF-SDIC published CoreCivic’s Decades of Abuse: Otay Mesa Detention Center, an issue brief detailing OMDC’s history of abuse. The issue brief amplifies the experiences of people who have shared their stories of abuse within the CoreCivic-run facility. The brief is intended to serve as a resource for currently and formerly detained persons, advocates, and lawmakers who are calling for an end to oppressive, unnecessary, and inhumane systems of incarceration.
Fiscal Year 2020 was ICE’s deadliest in 15 years. Last year alone, we saw reports of increased use of force, solitary confinement, patterns of sexual abuse, forced sterilization, and an utter failure to protect people from COVID-19. ICE’s extreme recklessness in handling the COVID-19 virus showed its blatant disregard for the health and wellbeing of detained people, as well as the extent to which it was willing to lie or obfuscate to avoid accountability. In the Otay Mesa Detention Center, the lackluster response to the pandemic resulted in the first death of a person in ICE custody due to COVID, though it would not be the last.
Through COVID-19 related litigation, advocacy, and the shutdown of asylum under the Trump administration, detention rates dropped lower than we’ve seen in two decades. There are currently roughly 14,000 people detained on an average day — this is just a quarter of the people who were detained at its peak in 2019. ICE is currently wasting over $1 million a day on guaranteed minimum bed space that isn’t being used. The ACLU’s list is intended as a starting point for the administration to begin ending the mass criminalization and default incarceration of undocumented immigrants.
Below is the full list of facilities the ACLU is calling to shut down:
- Etowah County Jail, Alabama
- Eloy Detention Center, Arizona
- La Palma Correctional Center, Arizona
- Adelanto Detention Center, California
- Desert View Annex, California
- Imperial Regional Detention Facility, California
- Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, California
- Otay Mesa Detention Center, California
- Yuba County Jail, California
- Baker’s County Sheriff’s Office, Florida
- Glades County Detention Center, Florida
- Krome North Service Processing Center, Florida
- Irwin County Detention Center, Georgia
- Stewart County Detention Center, Georgia
- Allen Parish Public Safety Complex, Louisiana
- Catahoula Correctional Center, Louisiana
- Jackson Parish Correctional Center, Louisiana
- LaSalle ICE Processing Center, Louisiana
- Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, Louisiana
- Richwood Correctional Center, Louisiana
- River Correctional Center, Louisiana
- South Louisiana Correctional Center, Louisiana
- Winn Correctional Center, Louisiana
- Bristol County House of Corrections, Massachusetts
- Calhoun County Correctional Facility, Michigan
- Adams County Detention Facility, Mississippi
- The Shelburne County Jail, Minnesota
- Otero County Processing Center, New Mexico
- Okmulgee County Jail, Oklahoma
- Clinton County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania
- Pike County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania
- York County Prison, Pennsylvania
- Bluebonnet Detention Facility, Texas
- El Valle Detention Center, Texas
- T. Don Hutto Residential Center, Texas
- IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility, Texas
- Montgomery ICE Processing Center, Texas
- Prairieland Detention Facility, Texas
- Farmville Detention Center, Virginia
The letter is online here.
The Issue Brief is here.