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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