By Sandra G. Leon
The federal Department of Homeland Security will stop using two immigration jails that have that have been accused of mistreating detained undocumented immigrants.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that Biden Administration will cancel contracts for the use of the two jails, one in Georgia run by a local Sheriff’s Department and one in Massachusetts run by a private company.
“Allow me to state one foundational principle,” Mayorkas said, “We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
The jail in Georgia has been accused of forcing female detainees to undergo unnecessary gynecological procedures with dirty equipment and other unsanitary condition. The jail is located in Ocilla, 200 miles South of Atlanta, and operated by LaSalle Corrections, a Louisiana-based company.
The facility in Massachusetts, located in North Dartmouth, has been criticized for not providing adequate complained COVID-19 precautions to protect detainees, as well as overcrowding and excessive use of force by correctional staff. The Massachusetts Attorney General issued a report in December documenting that officers violated the rights of detainees and used excessive force during a jail incident last year.
The jail is operated by the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Thomas Hodgson was an Honorary Chairman of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in Massachusetts.
“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas said. “This marks an important first step to realizing that goal. DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.”
In response to the announcement by Mayorkas, Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson criticized the move as poltiical.
“This is nothing but a political hit job orchestrated by Sec. Mayorkas, the Biden administration and other anti-law enforcement groups to punish outspoken critics and advance their partisan agenda to score political points,” Hodges said.
A joint statement issued by all of Massachusetts’ federal legislative delegation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Congressmembers Richard Neal, James McGovern, William Keating, Katherine Clark, Ayanna Pressley, Seth Moulton, Lori Trahan and Jake Auchincloss supported the move to end the use of the Bristol jail for immigrants detained by DHS.
“We commend the Biden administration for its decision to formally terminate its immigration-detention agreements with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. This is a just and humane step. An investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office found that the BCSO violated the civil rights of immigrants in its care and custody. These findings made clear that the BCSO should not be engaged in immigrant detention. Every person has the right to dignity, safety, and due process. This decision affirms that right, and is a victory for the detainees, families, lawyers, and advocates who have pushed for more accountability and more humane treatment by the BCSO,” the statement read.