AMERICAN GULAGS: Communities across the country push back on immigration prisons.

AuthorGoodman, James

In June 2018, Kelly Leibold was among the many residents of Pine Island, Minnesota, caught by surprise when its city council passed a resolution supporting a for-profit prison company, Management & Training Corporation, that wanted to locate a detention facility for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

She responded by helping local residents organize a "No ICE in PI" campaign.

"I don't believe that a detention facility is morally correct," Leibold explains. "People all have immigrant lines in their family. I don't think a detention facility in Pine Island will say good things about our community."

She and about three dozen other activists organized via social media. They formed a Facebook group to coordinate strategy and compiled a fact sheet making the case that this was a bad investment in Pine Island's future. In August 2018, the city council unanimously rescinded its welcoming resolution.

Leibold, twenty-three, who in addition to her activism on this issue is director of the local chamber of commerce, went on to get elected to the city council last November.

In Taylor, Texas, former ICE detainee Jeymi Moncada is working with Grassroots Leadership, a national nonprofit group, demanding the shutdown of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, where she was held for thirteen months.

"You can describe the conditions as a house of terror," Moncada says.

A survivor of domestic violence, with scars to prove it, forty-two-year-old Moncada fled Honduras in 2004. She was able to start a new life in Texas but ended up in the Hutto facility in 2010 after being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That happened after she risked returning to Honduras to bring her children here, according to court papers. They would have joined Moncadas daughter, Jeimi, who was born in Texas. But immigration officers in Mexico stopped Moncada and made her return to Honduras with her other children, who had been cared for by her sister.

Unsafe in Honduras, Moncada returned to the United States only to be apprehended by Border Patrol agents and sent to the Hutto facility. She was confined for more than a year until an immigration judge gave a favorable ruling in her asylum case, withholding deportation because she faced a "clear probability" of persecution if forced to return to Honduras.

But Moncadas detention left her with bitter memories--including seeing Jeimi, then four years old, traumatized by visits to Hutto. "She would scream and cry and say she wanted to be with me," Moncado recalls. "Eventually, they would stop bringing her to visit me because it was too difficult for her."

CoreCivic, the nation's second-largest private prison operator worth $2.4 billion, runs Hutto for ICE. But while the government in Williamson County, where this facility is located, last year voted to terminate its agreement with Hutto, ICE struck a deal directly with CoreCivic to keep the center open.

The Hutto facility is just one of more than 200 detention centers throughout the United States. Most of the larger ones are run by for-profit companies. The ICE detention population has risen from a daily average of 6,785 in 1994 to about 54,000 in June.

And these numbers will continue to grow, as Trump treats immigrants as political fodder. By kicking off his reelection campaign with a promise of mass arrests and deportations, followed by a threat of raids on homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants in targeted cities, Trump has made clear his disregard for human rights.

The ICE...

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