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Jayapal, Stansbury Call for Transparency on Conditions at Immigration Detention Centers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ranking Member of the Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement Subcommittee, and Melanie Stansbury (NM-01) are leading 50 of their colleagues in calling for increased transparency from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas regarding immigration detention centers that had been recommended for closure by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

“Our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, positive legislative reforms in immigration are unlikely this congress due to extreme MAGA Republican opposition,” wrote the Members. “Until that changes, we must do our best to operate within the current system to ensure that we are treating immigrants with dignity and utilizing our limited resources wisely.”

Despite an initial draft 2022 memo from ICE recommending the closure of nine immigration detention facilities due to high costs and unsafe conditions, six remain in operation, and multiple are operated by private, for-profit detention companies. These facilities are currently being overpaid by DHS for providing substandard care. Closing them, as recommended by ICE, could save taxpayers up to $235 million. 

“For-profit, private prisons are incentivized to cut costs, including on staffing and health care, to pad their profits,” continued the Members. “These facilities are unsafe and detained individuals are often denied necessary medical care and other resources.”

The initial draft of the memo recommended closing the Torrance County Detention Facility, which was also the subject of a DHS Office of Inspector General report that urged the immediate removal of all detainees due to critical understaffing, leading to the lack of a “safe, secure, and humane environment.” These included widespread mold, inoperable toilets and sinks, and major lapses in security protocol.  Despite these documented concerns, this recommendation was removed from the finalized memo.

The Members are specifically asking DHS to provide the following:

  1. A copy of the finalized memorandum dated Sept. 1, 2022, recommending the closure or downsizing of certain immigration facilities;
  2. An explanation, specific to each of the facilities mentioned within the memorandum, regarding what, if any action was taken and why;
  3. Information on why the Torrance County Detention Facility was removed from the prior draft memorandum and what steps, if any, the Department is taking to address the concerns outlined in the 2022 OIG report regarding that facility; and
  4. Any future plans to close or downsize the facilities mentioned within the memorandum.

The letter was signed by Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Judy Chu (CA-28), Gerald Connolly (VA-11)  Danny Davis (IL-07), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Jesús García (IL-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07),  Henry Johnson (GA-04),  Ro Khanna (CA-17), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Summer Lee (PA-12), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), James  McGovern (MA-02), Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Eleanor Norton (DC-AL), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Donald Payne (NJ-10), Katie Porter (CA-47), Mike Quigley (IL-05),  Delia Ramirez (IL-03),  Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Mary Scanlon (PA-05), Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Adam Smith (WA-09), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), David Trone (MD-06), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Nikema Williams (GA-05). 

The letter was also endorsed by the Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Project, and Physicians for Human Rights.

The full text of the letter can be read here