July 12, 2019

Senator Warren Investigates Reports that ICE has Secretly Transferred Migrants to Three New For-Profit Detention Facilities

A deadly riot had taken place at one of the facilities in response to inadequate medical care, rotten food, and staff mistreatment 

Text of the letter (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) yesterday sent a letter to Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Mark Morgan seeking answers regarding reports that ICE has signed new contracts for three for-profit immigration detention centers in Mississippi and Louisiana: Adams County Correctional Center (operated by CoreCivic, one of the largest for-profit prison operators in the country), Catahoula Correctional Center, and South Louisiana ICE Processing Center (operated by GEO Group, another giant for-profit prison operator). If the reports are correct, it appears that ICE has decided to place immigrant detainees at these facilities without providing proper notice, despite the fact that they pose serious health and safety concerns. 

A 2016 report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General highlighted dangerous conditions at Adams County Correctional Center. In May 2019, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced it would stop using this facility to house federal prisoners. Yet, just two months later, ICE decided to detain migrants there. 

The circumstances surrounding ICE's use of these facilities are very concerning. ICE did not publicly disclose the use of the Adams County or Catahoula centers, confirming their use only in response to the public reports. CoreCivic announced that BOP did not renew its contract for Adams County Correctional Center, but did not announce that it had later contracted with ICE or that it had begun to move migrants into the facility. And reports suggest that ICE has not provided the proper notice to attorneys representing individuals who have been transferred.

"ICE appears to be spending money to secretly house migrants in for-profit facilities with demonstrated failures to provide safe and secure conditions, rather than improving conditions in existing facilities," wrote Senator Warren.

Today in a statement, she added, "These reports add to the growing body of evidence that private, for-profit prisons are rife with safety, health, and human rights concerns. We should abolish them altogether."

She requested answers to her questions regarding these troubling reports by July 25, 2019.

Senator Warren has long opposed the use of for-profit facilities to detain migrants. In November 2018, she questioned GEO Group and CoreCivic about their compliance with federal immigration detention standards following a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report about unsafe conditions and mistreatment of immigrants at a number of privately-run immigration detention centers. In April of this year, she released the prison companies' responses, which revealed that neither the companies nor their private auditor have taken responsibility for egregious failures identified by the DHS OIG, and also revealed an ongoing dispute between the Nakamoto Group, the contractor responsible for auditing detention facilities, and the OIG about the quality of Nakamoto's inspections. In May, she began an investigation of the private detention accreditation system following widespread reports of mismanagement and poor conditions for detainees.

Senator Warren's Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, her proposed sweeping anti-corruption legislation, would make private federal prisons and immigration detention centers subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.