OFFICIALS STEP UP CALLS TO INVESTIGATE ABUSE OF IMMIGRANTS AT PRIVATE DETENTION CENTERS, ANNOUNCE FIRST HEARING
De Blasio, Members of Congress announce letter demanding full investigation, Council Member Dromm to hold Immigration Committee hearing
NEW YORK – Elected officials from across New York City announced steps to shine a light on the abuse of undocumented immigrants at private detention centers, following a refusal by the Justice Department to conduct its own investigation as requested by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. City Council Member Daniel Dromm announced his Committee on Immigration will conduct a hearing on December 13th to examine the practices of the private detention industry’s treatment of immigrants. And in a letter to the Justice Department, Members of NYC’s congressional delegation joined de Blasio and Dromm in calling for a thorough investigation into GEO Group, a private detention company contracted by the federal government. Public Advocate de Blasio, Council Member Dromm, and Members of Congress Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez and Gregory Meeks called on the Department to reconsider all federal contracts with GEO if the company is found to have systematically neglected or mistreated detainees. GEO operates facilities in the five boroughs used to house people awaiting federal trial, in addition to its facilities used to detain immigrants across the country.
“This is not complicated: government should not do business with companies that violate basic human rights,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “Officials from across the city are adding their voices to this campaign and fighting for the principle that no immigrant—regardless of legal status—should ever be put at risk of abuse.”
“In most instances when government privatizes services that government should be doing, it invites corruption,” said New York City Council Member and Chair of the Immigration Committee, Daniel Dromm. “In this case, the allegations are even more distressing. The federal government should act immediately to investigate the GEO Group’s abusive practices at these detention facilities and ensure that immigrant detainees are not mistreated. We must be fully committed to upholding and protecting basic human rights. I will continue to work with my colleagues in government to address any potential human rights violations that occur especially in the City of New York.”
“It is important that the federal government hold contractors for immigration detention centers accountable for any reported human rights violations or mismanagement of these facilities. That is why I join my colleagues in calling for the Department of Justice to reconsider investigating GEO Group,” said Representative Yvette D. Clarke. “The federal government must take a clear stand against such mistreatment as it tarnishes the values that we stand on as a nation.”
“With privatization of detention centers on the rise, we must work to ensure these companies operate in a safe manner that protects detainees’ human rights,” said Representative Nydia M. Velazquez.
“The allegations against GEO Group are truly disturbing,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler. “If this country stands for anything, it is the protection of the human rights of all people. We cannot allow such potential abuses to go unchallenged. I join my colleagues in urging the Justice Department to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations against GEO Group.”
“As a society, we absolutely cannot turn a blind eye to any mistreatment of human beings – especially if such abuse takes place on our own soil,” said Representative Joe Crowley. “I represent one of the most diverse districts in the country, which includes a significant immigrant community, and these allegations are deeply concerning. A thorough investigation should take place immediately.”
“Detention centers that do not respect basic human rights have no place in New York City or anywhere else in the United States,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We are demanding an investigation, and if these allegations of human rights violations are substantiated, we will ask that the City put pressure on the federal government to strip GEO of the contract to run its facilities here in the NYC. I thank the Public Advocate for drawing attention to this issue, and to my colleague, Immigration Chair Danny Dromm, for scheduling this important hearing.”
“We applaud Public Advocate de Blasio and our Members of Congress for asking the Department of Justice to investigate the role of private detention facilities and their treatment of immigrants, because these private detention centers are less accountable to taxpayers if no proper oversight is created by the appropriate authorities in government,” said Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York, the largest community-based immigrant organization in New York State. “Companies such as GEO, that operate facilities in our own backyard, should be investigated for the alleged mistreatment of immigrants that’s occurring.”
Contact: Wiley Norvell, 212-669-4813/646-422-9614
Read the full letter to the Department of Justice:
December 1, 2011
Attorney General Eric Holder
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
We write to express deep concern regarding practices at privately operated detention centers contracted by the Federal Government, and disappointment regarding the Justice Department’s failure to investigate industry practices that may jeopardize the health and safety of immigrant detainees.
The growth of the private detention industry in the United States has been both broad and staggering. Private companies now control nearly half of all detention beds and eight percent of beds in state and federal prisons. Our country’s one-sided approach to immigration has led to an even more rapid rise the number of undocumented immigrants detained in these facilities. There were 400,000 detentions of undocumented immigrants in 2010, up from 280,000 in 2005.
Privatization of detention facilities reduces accountability by removing state oversight and sets the stage for potential abuse. GEO Group, a company with facilities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, is allegedly responsible for a long pattern of detainee abuse and mismanagement. GEO controls 7,000 of 32,000 detention beds in the U.S. The company has faced accusations of mistreatment at its facility in Walnut Grove, Mississippi; had riots in their Reeves County, Texas detention center after several detainees died in solitary confinement; and lost an Australian contract amid findings that detained children were subjected to cruel treatment (Nina Bernstein, “Companies Use Immigration Crackdown to Turn a Profit,” The New York Times, 9/28/11).
We are disappointed that the Justice Department chose not to investigate GEO for these alleged abuses, as requested by the Public Advocate in his letter dated September 30th. We call on you to reconsider, and conduct a thorough audit to determine the accuracy of these allegations. If GEO Group is found responsible for this pattern of abuse, we urge you to revisit all federal contracts with the company.
The United States Government should not be doing business with companies that egregiously and consistently violate the most basic human rights. We, as elected officials and public servants, are duty-bound to protect our constituents, especially those without powerful interest groups to lobby on their behalf. For their sake, and in order to restore the relationship between the United States and its immigrants, we urge you to comply with this request.
Bill de Blasio Yvette Clarke Joseph Crowley
Public Advocate Member of Congress Member of Congress
Gregory Meeks Jerrold Nadler Nydia Velazquez
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress
New York City Council Member