Progressives were aghast in late June when House Democrats caved to Republicans and voted to approve a $4.6 billion emergency funding relief bill for the deliberately created humanitarian crisis at the border without any kind of restrictions on what the money would be spent on.
“What we did today is continue to allow the atrocity to take place. We’ve sent money that we don’t know if it’s going to continue to be used to assist these children in any kind of way and their families…We’re just throwing money at folks and not telling them exactly what they’re supposed to be doing with it!” warned Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MI) after voting against the bill.
It appears that worry was well-founded.
Mother Jones has discovered that in the past month, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has quietly opened up three new detention centers across the South.
Noah Lanard reports:
“Interviews with lawyers and prison officials and ICE records reveal that the agency has begun detaining migrants at the Adams County Correctional Center, a Mississippi prison operated by CoreCivic; the Catahoula Correctional Center, a Louisiana jail run by LaSalle Corrections; and the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, run by GEO Group in Basile, Louisiana.
The horrifying conditions uncovered by Mother Jones at the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana and by The Nation at Adams County helped push Barack Obama’s Justice Department to move to end its use of private prisons. Since June, ICE has started sending asylum seekers to both of those prisons.
These aren’t just any detention centers. These privately-run facilities are infamous for their appalling conditions and a lethal prison riot. They were so awful that the Justice Department stopped using them as prisons entirely.
But that doesn’t matter to the Trump administration, which appears to relish inflicting dehumanizing conditions on the innocent immigrants they pack into their concentration camps.
These centers were opened in direct defiance of Congress, which ordered ICE to stop detaining so many people in February when they signed the bipartisan deal to reopen the government in February. They set ICE a limit of 40,520 people in detention.
ICE ignored it and deliberately overcrowded the centers, leading to a staggering 54,000 people currently in detention.
Even more worrying is the fact that it is unclear where the money to pay for these private prison contracts is coming from, since Congress refused to allocate ICE any more money to pay for detention centers in the bipartisan funding bill passed in February. “ICE is continuing to spend money it hasn’t been given” writes Lanard.
Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to guess where they might get the money from. “An assistant warden told Mother Jones that ICE began sending people there last week, shortly after Congress voted to provide $4.6 billion to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border without giving ICE the extra detention money it had requested.” If ICE didn’t have the money to pay them but began moving immigrants into the prison as soon as they got their cheque from Congress…you do the math.
The use of Southern prisons represents a huge tilting of an already heavily weighted scale against the undocumented immigrants, who now are being transported off to an area that desperately lacks immigration lawyers and has a judicial system that is notorious for its prejudice. “ICE is saying they want to get to 15,000 [detainees] by the end of the summer in Louisiana…There’s an intentional, purposeful approach behind this of putting people where they can’t access counsel” warned Homero Lopez, the director of Louisiana legal aid organization ISLA, to Mother Jones.
That’s just the tip of a horrifying iceberg. ICE is now even reportedly failing to inform lawyers when their clients are transferred to these new detention centers. “People just disappear from the system” says Southern Poverty Law Center lawyer Laura Rivera.
Taken all together, this represents a dramatic escalation in the scale of ICE’s concentration camp system and the systematic funneling of asylum seekers into the rapacious and insatiable for-profit carceral meat grinder, all paid for by taxpayer dollars.
This is going to be remembered as one of the darkest periods in American history — and it’s just getting started.