In a move hailed as “a major win” by migrant rights advocates, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced it is moving to end migrant detention at two county jails under federal investigation for alleged abuses including forced sterilizations and unleashing dogs on detainees.
“We know that this must be the first step of many, including ensuring that people are released and not transferred to other detention facilities when contracts are cut.”
Detention Watch Network
DHS said in a statement that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “discontinue use” of the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center at the Bristol County Jail in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts and to “prepare to discontinue the use” of the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
In a memo to Tae Johnson, the acting ICE director, Mayorkas said that “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
In March, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) led a letter from progressive U.S. lawmakers urging the Biden administration to “sever the financial incentives” fueling an “abuse-ridden system of mass incarceration” by ending immigrant detention contracts with local jails.
The letter specifically mentioned Bristol County Jail, where the Massachusetts attorney general’s office found that officers sicced dogs on migrant inmates and assaulted them with pepper spray, resulting in at least two hospitalizations.
Last September, House Democrats demanded an emergency investigation into allegations of medical abuse at the Irwin County Detention Center after whistleblowing nurse Dawn Wooten alleged that an alarming number of forced hysterectomies were performed on migrant women prisoners there.
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According to Amnesty International, “Some women were reportedly unsure why the procedure was performed, or they were not fully informed of what procedures would be performed on them.”
While Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson—a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies—called the DHS cancellation a “political hit job,” migrant rights advocates welcomed the news. The Massachusetts-based FANG Collective and the advocacy group Detention Watch Network issued a joint statement noting that “this is the first time ICE has cut a contract for a detention center in recent years.”
“The announcement signals a major win for people who’ve been detained at the facility and bravely spoken out against its abuses and for local organizations who have long fought to shut it down,” the groups said.
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