Biden administration will close 2 ICE detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts after allegations of abuse

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In this Sept. 15, 2020, file photo, Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail.

  • ICE will cut ties with two immigration detention centers, officials announced Thursday.
  • The Georgia and Massachusetts facilities have both come under federal investigation in the last year.
  • Those who remain will be transferred out of the facilities.
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The Biden administration will close two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers – one in Georgia and one in Massachusetts – that came under federal investigation for allegations of mistreatment of immigrants, officials said Thursday.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed ICE to discontinue the use of the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which is operated by a private contractor, and the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Bristol County, Massachusetts, which is operated by the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, with which the agency will also cut ties.

The move comes months after the Massachusetts attorney general released a report finding authorities used excessive force against detainees and violated their civil rights during a May 2020 clash over COVID-19 testing.

Last fall, a whistleblower who had previously worked at the Irwin Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, alleged medical neglect against the institution in a complaint filed to the Homeland Security inspector general. Around the same time, NBC News reported that multiple women at the center were accusing a gynecologist who worked at the facility of performing unnecessary hysterectomies on them.

The inspector general has launched a review into the Irwin allegations.

Federal officials chose the two centers in particular because their rosters have decreased and are “no longer operationally necessary,” a DHS official told The Washington Post. Irwin is holding 114 detainees out of nearly 1,000 beds, while Bristol is holding only seven detainees out of almost 200 beds, the outlet reported.

Those who remain will be transferred out of the facilities, as the administration plans to take a different approach to immigration detention, according to CNN.

In a memo obtained by The Post, Mayorkas told acting ICE Director Tae Johnson that “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the Thursday decision, after having previously pushed for the closure of 39 detention centers.

“By shuttering detention facilities with a track record of problematic conditions and ending local collaboration with ICE, we can work together toward a fairer and more humane immigration center, Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts told NBC News.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, an outspoken Trump supporter, responded to the order with disdain.

“Shame on Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas for putting his left-wing political agenda above public safety by ending the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said in a statement. “While Sec. Mayorkas and the Biden administration are turning their backs on the people of our great country, I will not.”

Since taking office, the Biden administration has seen the number of immigrant arrests and deportations drop, as well as detention population. According to ICE, there were still 20,430 immigrants in detention as of May 14.

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Photos capture the conditions of an overcrowded Texas facility where 4,000 migrants are housed

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Young children look out from inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

More than 4,000 migrants, including many children and families, are being housed in a Department of Homeland Security facility that has a capacity of 250.

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Young children lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

As thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children have reached the US Southern border in recent weeks, President Joe Biden has faced increasing scrutiny over the administration’s lack of transparency.

For the first time on Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection allowed two journalists from The Associated Press and a crew from CBS to tour the Donna, Texas, facility in the Rio Grande Valley. 

The visit revealed a “severely” overcrowded tent facility with a capacity of 250, housing more than 4,000 migrants crammed into pods, according to the AP.

 

 

 

 

 

Kids are being housed by the hundreds in eight small pods. Many had more than 500 kids in them.

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Young children look out from inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Unaccompanied migrant children are processed in the tent facilities before being taken to Department of Health and Human shelters and then placed with family members or sponsors.

When journalists visited Tuesday, hundreds of kids were being housed in eight small pods about 3,200 square feet in size, the AP reported. Many reportedly had more than 500 kids in them.

 

US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley told the AP that 250 to 300 children enter daily, but far fewer leave.

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Young children rest inside a pod at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

 

 

The youngest children are kept in a large play pen and monitored by a caretaker.

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Monitored by a caretaker, young unaccompanied migrants, aged from 3 to 9, watch television inside a playpen at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Unaccompanied migrant children between the ages of 3 to 9 are kept separate from the other detainees and are housed in a small playpen with mats on the floor for sleeping, according to the AP. 

 

When the migrants arrive at the facility, they wait to enter the intake area and be processed.

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Newly migrants wait to enter the intake area at the Donna Processing Center, run by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

They are given a health inspection and checked for lice first.

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A young migrant gets treated for possible lice before entering the intake area at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Their hair is hosed down and checked for lice before they enter the crowded facility. Minors are checked for scabies, fever, and other ailments, according to the AP. 

Nurse practitioners also give psychological tests to the unaccompanied minors, asking if they have experienced suicidal thoughts.

The facility removes all shoelaces to avoid any harm, the outlet reported. 

 

 

 

COVID-19 tests are only administered to those who show symptoms.

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Young migrants wait to be tested for COVID-19 at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility.

After the medical inspections, the migrants are taken to a second intake room where they receive notices to appear in immigration court.

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Young migrants get processed at the intake area of the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

 

 

 

Border agents then allow the migrants to speak via phone with a US contact if they have one.

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Migrants speak to their relatives inside a phone booth after being processed at the intake area.

Migrants older than 14 are fingerprinted and have their photos taken. Younger children do not.

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A migrant and her daughter have their biometric data entered at the intake area

The children are given a barcoded bracelet that shows the history of their medical checks and showers.

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Young unaccompanied migrants, wait for their turn at the secondary processing station inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Most of the unaccompanied minors have had long journeys to reach the border, including sections on foot, and are eager to rest.

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Young children stand or sleep insides a pod at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

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