Earlier this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement quietly opened three new detention centers in Louisiana, all run by private for-profit prison companies. Louisiana’s popular justice reinvestment reforms had begun to shrink the state’s bloated prison population, but these private prison companies – along with federal immigration authorities – had different ideas.
The number of ICE detention facilities in Louisiana has grown from 2 in 2018 to 11 as of July 2019, shattering our state’s commitment to reducing mass incarceration and subjecting thousands of immigrants and asylum-seekers to brutal and inhumane conditions.
Today Louisiana is poised to become the state with the highest number of immigrant detainees.
Many are being held in private, for-profit prisons or in local jails with a history of abysmal medical care and extreme brutality. For years, the ACLU has received serious complaints in these very facilities, where there have been reports of rampant violence, a lack of medical care, and people being placed in solitary confinement. The people being detained are so desperate they are staging hunger strikes and civil disobedience. In at least two facilities, protesters have been pepper-sprayed.
The state that recently shed its title as prison capital of the world is now at risk of becoming the detention capital of the world. This is an unacceptable, inhumane and dangerous trend.
Louisiana taxpayers should not be subsidizing the forcible separation of children from their families or the mass detention of immigrants in brutal and dehumanizing conditions. That’s why we’re fighting back in court and in the halls of power to combat mass detention and hold public officials accountable for ending these abuses.
In May, the ACLU of Louisiana joined the Southern Poverty Law Center in suing the Trump administration for categorically denying release to hundreds of people who are languishing in immigration prisons after lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. The suit was filed on behalf of 12 named plaintiffs who, like hundreds of other migrants, sought asylum at official U.S. points of entry in compliance with federal law and then were confined and sent to remote prisons in Louisiana and Alabama.
The ACLU is also keeping the pressure up on Congress to press the Trump administration to stop detaining people at these unprecedented levels and instead release them on their own recognizance, bond or parole. Specifically, Congress should press the administration to reduce detention and revive alternatives such as the Family Case Management Program, in partnership with community-based organizations, for individuals who need case management support. Congress should also pass the Dignity For Detained Immigrants Act, which requires the DHS Office of Inspector General to carry out unannounced inspections of every DHS detention site, and forces DHS to promptly investigate detainee deaths.
Finally, local officials should refuse to cooperate with the Trump administration’s mass detention and deportation agenda. When local officials work with federal immigration authorities through arrangements like the 287(g) program, they undermine trust with the community and compromise public safety.
Together, we can stop this runaway train of mass detention and restore our commitment to freedom and justice for all.