Lawmakers ask Biden administration to terminate ICE contracts, saying immigrants faced 'retaliation after reporting sexual assault'

·2 min read
Otay mesa
In this May 26, 2010 file photo, men sit in the sun in the health ward at the Otay Mesa immigration detention center in San Diego. AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File
  • Lawmakers say three facilities in California should no longer be used to detain immigrants.

  • Two of the facilities are run by for-profit prison companies: CoreCivic and The GEO Group.on

  • Detainees have reported abuse and retaliation at the detention centers.

Two dozen Democrats have signed on to a letter urging the Biden administration to close detention facilities where immigrants have claimed abuse at the hands of guards, including what the lawmakers say has been "retaliation after reporting sexual assault."

Sent Thursday, the letter asks Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to "take immediate steps" to terminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts for three detention centers in California: the Yuba County Jail, the Otay Mesa Detention Center, and the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility.

"For years, under multiple administrations, these facilities have been operating in a substandard manner," the letter states, resulting in "the excessive waste of federal funds."

But the lawmakers - including California's Sen. Alex Padilla, chair of the Senate subcommittee on immigration, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, his counterpart in the House - are concerned about more than just costs. The letter describes a pattern of abuse. At Otay Mesa, located near the US-Mexico border and run by the for-profit prison company CoreCivic, detainees have complained of overcrowding and filthy conditions. "Detainees have also reported retaliation after reporting sexual assault," the letter states.

As detailed in a report from a local chapter of the ACLU, the Otay Mesa authorities admitted "there was more than one confirmed assault every month in 2019." A lawsuit filed by women detained there alleges some detainees were put in isolation after reporting such assaults.

At the Adelanto facility, an hour inland from Los Angeles and run by the for-profit GEO Group, personnel have also been accused of using pepper spray "on detainees who were peacefully protesting COVID-19-related lockdown conditions" that had been deemed by one federal court "inconsistent with contemporary standards of human decency."

CoreCivic, in a statement provided to Insider, called the letter "misguided" and based on "false information spread by politically motivated special interests." It did not specify what it was claiming to be incorrect.

Alexandra Wilkes, a spokesperson for the Day 1 Alliance, a trade association for private prison contractors, including The GEO Group, likewise dismissed the letter as being part of "the push to 'Abolish ICE."

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

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