AUSTIN, TX – Today, two Texas organizations released reports detailing inhumane conditions at two privately operated immigrant detention centers in Texas. Texas has more immigrant detention beds than any other state. President Obama made promises to reform the immigration detention system in 2009, however, the reality on the ground has not changed. Immigrants in detention continue to be denied basic needs, such as contact with lawyers and loved ones, inadequate food and hygiene, and access to fresh air and sunlight. They continue to receive inadequate medical care and endure racial slurs and discriminatory treatment by prison staff.
The reports – detailing conditions at the Houston Processing Center and Polk County Secure Adult Detention Facility in Livingston – are part of a national Expose and Close Campaign to highlight conditions at ten of the nation’s worst immigrant detention facilities that exemplify the egregious problems inherent throughout the system. The Campaign is calling for immediate closure of these facilities. . The reports are available at www.detentionwatchnetwork/exposeandclose.
“At the Polk County facility, we witnessed horrific conditions,” said Texans United for Families member Sam Vong. “ICE must shut down this facility as a first step towards reducing its detained population.”
Texans United for Families and Grassroots Leadership also announced that they will hold a protest on Saturday, December 8th, at the Polk County Detention Facility in Livingston, Texas in commemoration of International Human Rights Day calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to close the detention center.
At Polk, detained men eat, sleep, and use the bathroom all in one room. The cells are dreary, lack natural lighting, and do not offer privacy. Neither meaningful programming nor legal services exist at Polk. One man detained at Polk told members of Texans United for Families, “This isn’t a good place; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
In response to the report, Congressman Lloyd Doggett issued a statement saying “The many problems identified at these facilities show the need to reform the detention system by uniting families in community-based settings.”
The Polk County Detention Facility is operated by private prison corporation Community Education Centers (CEC) while Houston Processing Center is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CEC has recently come under criticism for operating violent and abusive half-way houses in New Jersey.
“While immigrants suffer under prolonged detention at Polk County and the Houston Processing Center, private prison corporations are getting rich,” said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. “It doesn’t have to be this way. ICE should prioritize release of immigrants in community support programs that are far more humane, less costly, and are effective at ensuring immigrants are able to appear at their hearings.”