U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is soliciting private-sector interest in a new detention center to hold 1,000 people in South Texas, according to a notice posted Wednesday on a federal contracting site.
The post is a preliminary request for information, asking for room to house men and women within 50 miles of I-35. ICE said its preference is for a facility dedicated to holding its detainees, but it would consider a large facility with inmates from another agency. The agency said it will consider pre-existing facilities, renovated old facilities or new construction.
The contract would mean more good news for the private prison industry, which has rebounded quickly under President Donald Trump. A year ago, the federal government seemed poised to end deals with the private prison industry’s biggest players, after federal inspectors noted safety concerns in their facilities.
The new South Texas facility likely would be the largest since then, according to Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based nonprofit that tracks private prisons and advocates against expanding them.
“This would continue the trend of this administration’s giveaways to the private prison industry at the expense of immigrants that it’s targeting for deportation,” Libal said. The region already is home to many of ICE’s largest detention centers, in remote towns without easy access to legal help, he said.
“I would question the logic behind this,” he said, “because from what we’ve heard, for the most part, asylum-seeking folks, that population hasdeclined in the first few months, while internal apprehensions have increased.”