ICE halts or limits use of four detention centers, citing inadequate conditions

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The Biden administration on Friday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop detaining immigrants in an Alabama county jail and limit its use of three other detention centers, citing conditions inadequate, according to an agency notice obtained by CBS News.

Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson ordered officials to no longer use the Etowah County detention center in northern Alabama because of “a long history of serious deficiencies identified during facility inspections. Officials said the detention center had no significant operational value to ICE.

Johnson also announced that ICE will suspend its use of the Glades County Detention Center in South Florida, saying any future detainee transfers to the facility will be contingent on meeting internal detention standards.

According to the notice, ICE will reduce the number of inmates held at Winn Correctional Center, a facility in rural Louisiana run by a for-profit prison corporation, citing staffing shortages. The agency said it has assigned a manager to monitor conditions at the facility, which is undergoing renovations.

Immigration Detention Louisiana
Inmates walk with their hands clasped behind their backs on a catwalk inside the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, La., September 26, 2019.

Gerald Herbert / AP


Meanwhile, the Alamance County Detention Center in North Carolina will transition from a long-term detention center to a 72-hour treatment site, the notice said. ICE officials have raised concerns about conditions in the county jail where inmates are being held, including a lack of outdoor recreation.

Friday’s announcement represents the most significant step yet taken by the Biden administration in its effort to reform ICE’s sprawling detention system, which has long been plagued by reports inadequate conditions and allegations of ill-treatment of detainees. ICE will continue to monitor conditions at other detention centers, the notice said.

In a meeting with CBS News in January, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called detention reform one of his priorities for 2022. Last year, Mayorkas directed ICE must stop using two detention sites in Georgia and Massachusetts where detainees had reported abuse.

The administration, however, has yet to fulfill President Biden’s campaign pledge to end for-profit immigration detention. “I will only say the following: first, detention reform is one of my priorities, and second, the president keeps his promises,” Mayorkas said in January when asked about the promise.

Representatives of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), its apex agency, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday’s announcement, which was reported earlier by Reuters.

At the start of the month, ICE was holding just over 20,000 immigrants in its detention system, which consists mostly of county jails and for-profit jails, agency statistics Pin up.

The agency detains adult immigrants facing deportation, including migrants who recently illegally crossed a U.S. border and noncitizens arrested after being convicted of crimes that made them eligible for deportation.

Deviating from broader Trump-era deportation policies, the Biden administration has directed ICE agents to focus on apprehending immigrants deemed a threat to national security or public safety, such as those convicted of serious crimes, as well as migrants who have recently entered the United States. illegally.

The policies effectively exempt undocumented immigrants who lived and worked in the United States before November 2020 from arrest and deportation as long as they do not commit serious crimes.

Friday’s notice says Johnson has ordered the agency to transfer immigrants detained at the four sites included in his announcement to other facilities if they fall within the administration’s immigration priorities.

In addition to limiting ICE arrests, the Biden administration has expanded so-called alternatives to detention programs, which allow the agency to monitor, via ankle monitors or other means, immigrants who are not physically in his custody.

At the start of this month, about 192,000 immigrants were enrolled in programs other than detention, according to ICE figures.

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