After More Reported Abuse, Cruelty at ICE Facilities, ACLU and Others Again Urge Biden to Close ICE Detention Sites as Promised

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Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

By Casey Rawlings

WASHINGTON D.C. – After recent reports of abuse and cruelty at the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana and humane issues regarding families detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center, the ACLU again last week called for the Biden administration to recommit to closing ICE detention sites and ultimately end the system of mass ICE detention.

In response to the conditions in the Texas facility, the Biden Administration released parents and children from the South Texas Family Residential Center. A local ICE spokesperson stated that both this facility and the organization as a whole are shifting their focus toward single adults.

ICE’s new goal is to be “consistent with the administration’s goals of addressing irregular migration while supporting a system of border management that is orderly, safe and humane,” an ICE representative said.

In addition to ICE, The DHS has increasingly relied on alternatives to detention, such as bracelets and traceable cellphones to keep track of undocumented migrants who cross the border and are released into the U.S.

Although many welcome the news that the Biden administration collaborated to make these changes, activists have further demands.

Naureen Shah, the senior legislative counsel for the ACLU commented on ICE’s actions, stating, “ICE should never have detained immigrant families and children in the first place. This is a step in the right direction, but now ICE must shut down the facility, rather than use it to detain even more people inside.”

Shah also criticized Biden and his team, including DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, for prior inaction.

“We are also deeply disturbed by reports showing that the Biden administration ignored recommendations from its own experts that ICE stop detaining people at Winn Correctional Center, in light of extensive abuse documented at the facility,” said Shaw.

Shah added that “the administration has the power and responsibility to immediately shut down the facility, and it should not send more people into harm’s way.”

The Winn Correctional Center was one of 39 facilities that the ACLU urged the Biden administration to close in April 2021 after investigating reports of abuse by previously detained people. If it had been closed sooner, reports of abuse could have been prevented, activists note.

Among those harmed since then was Manuel Amaya Portillo, an asylum-seeker with disabilities, who alleged that staffers never responded to his repeated requests for a wheelchair, according to the ACLU.

Portillo told the group that medical staffers “locked him in the medical unit and gave him sedatives, which he had not requested and did not want, during what he later learned was a facility inspection tour by government-contracted outside inspectors who took photos and interviewed detained people.”

Biden’s inaction was particularly frustrating to many activists because of his prior promises to dismantle mass detention. In June of 2020, then-Presidential candidate Biden denounced ICE holding children and took to Twitter to voice his frustration.

Biden, the candidate, stated that “children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.”

The ACLU has been calling on the Biden administration to end detention since January 2021.

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