WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close two detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts after allegations of abuse at both facilities.
The Department of Homeland Security is closing the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and is terminating an intergovernmental service agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office.
DHS is also preparing to discontinue use of the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, as soon as possible.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement “this marks an important first step” in making “lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system.”
“DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards,” he said in the statement. “Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.”
Lawsuits involving both facilities
A class action lawsuit was filed in December 2020 in which several women say they were ordered to have nonconsensual gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies, at the Irwin County Detention Center.
DHS said that preparations to close the Irwin County facility will include evidence preservation for ongoing investigations of the center.
In December 2020, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Division issued a report saying that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office used “excessive and disproportionate” force in response to a disturbance in May 2020 with some immigrant detainees at the Carreiro Immigration Detention Center. The report said employees used weapons such as a flash bang grenade, pepper spray and pepper-spray balls, anti-riot shields and canines.
“We found ample evidence that the BCSO acted with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to the health of the detainees,” the report said.
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In addition, a class-action lawsuit was filed last year claiming that detention center lacked precautions during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as necessities like adequate soap and toilet paper. The lawsuit, which was settled last month, also said that, at the time, new detainees were being admitted without being tested for COVID-19 and that vulnerable detainees with medical conditions were being refused to be released despite the facility being overcrowded.
Advocates praised the decision to close the two facilities. However, many said they still want to see more detention facilities close.
“Today’s announcements show the Biden administration’s willingness to decisively break from the immigrants’ rights abuses of prior administrations,” Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Far more can and must be done to pull the plug on a system that has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars and inflicted trauma and profound harm on hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their loved ones.”
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_