Washington, DC – Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, responded to the news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had awarded a private prison company the grant to establish a new case management alternative to detention initiative for families.
Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of RAICES stated, “Based on how our staff and volunteers have seen GEO treat mothers and children incarcerated at their facility in Karnes City, Texas, this award seems to exemplify the uncaring and inhumane attitude the Obama Administration holds toward the mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The administration keeps finding ways to hand over control of a vulnerable population to a private prison company. We very much fear the end result will be harm to these families and their claims to protection under our laws.”
Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director of CLINIC added, “We applaud the idea of a family case management program which would allow mothers to pursue their claims without being detained and, often, separated from their families and unable to access adequate medical care and legal services. However, the selection of GEO, a corrections and detention corporation, to care for vulnerable migrant women and their young children is ill-conceived. GEO does not have the legal or social case management expertise, nor trust of the immigrant community to successfully implement this program. How are we to believe that an organization that doesn’t treat traumatized women and children with empathy and compassion inside the facility will do so outside of it?”
Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council noted, “ICE’s plan to enroll up to 1,500 families in this program with GEO offering the community-based service makes no sense at all. Instead of choosing an organization with roots in the community, deep experience providing case management to vulnerable populations, and strong existing partnerships, they chose a private prison company whose actions have made it particularly untrustworthy to the immigrant community. There is a real concern that families will be hesitant to work with this firm and that hesitancy will affect their chances of success in immigration court.”
Victor Nieblas Pradis, President of AILA cautioned, “While AILA and its partners have long advocated for innovative, holistic alternatives to detention, this contract should have gone to an entity with actual experience connecting vulnerable populations with wrap-around services in the community like housing, medical care, and legal services – all of which actually build up the ability of individuals to comply with the system. With this choice, the Obama Administration is only wasting more taxpayer money on wholly inappropriate punitive treatment models for families seeking protection in the United States.”