For Immediate Release
September 30, 2021
Biden Administration Must End Private Prisons and Halt Expansion of Immigration Detention
Washington, D.C. – The Biden Administration is moving to expand immigration detention capacity, including through new contracts with private prison companies.
This week, an agreement was reached between ICE, Clearfield County PA, and the Geo Group to re-open the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Pennsylvania to operate as a new immigration detention center, holding up to 1,900 people. It was previously a federal Bureau of Prisons facility that closed in March.
ICE officials have stated that the Moshannon facility will detain people subject to ICE’s enforcement priorities guidelines, which are expected to be issued by the Department of Homeland Security this week.
The We Are Home campaign is calling on the Biden Administration to immediately change course on its expansion of immigrant detention and honor Biden’s pledge to end private detention.
Sonia Lin, Executive Strategy Director of the We Are Home campaign, said:
“The record is clear that immigration detention is cruel, dangerous, and unnecessary. Across the entire system, the caging of immigrants and asylum seekers is driven by profit motives, politics, and racism. From Pennsylvania, to New Jersey, to Illinois and beyond, communities around the country have mobilized to end ICE detention in their states and localities. The Biden Administration’s move to expand the immigration detention system through a new contract with Geo Group flies in the face of this progress and contravenes the President’s own commitments. The Administration must halt its efforts to open new ICE facilities, end all private prison contracts, and work with communities to close detention centers and release people.”
Nick Katz, CASA Legal Director, said:
“From the Haitian migrant catastrophe at the border to the reopening of the Moshannon immigrant detention center in Pennsylvania, the Biden administration has repeatedly failed to live up to its promise to support and defend immigrant communities. President Biden and his Department of Homeland Security need to focus on instituting policies that are consistent with their stated vision, keeping immigrant families together and welcoming newcomers to the United States, not prioritizing them for deportation and putting them behind bars. Immigration detention centers are not “job creators” – they are morally bankrupt institutions, riddled with human rights violations, whose sole purpose is to keep families separated and fast-track the deportation machine that is our broken immigration system. We need real reform and investment in struggling communities that fosters unity and respects the dignity of all people, regardless of their immigration status, not more jails that split our communities apart.”
Setareh Ghandehari, Advocacy Director of Detention Watch Network, said:
“We are deeply disappointed in Biden’s continued actions to inflate the immigration detention system despite the administration’s ongoing promises to end the use of for-profit detention and roll back ICE’s fundamentally flawed system. The administration is setting a dangerous precedent that fits within a broader emerging pattern of ICE detention expansion. This latest move of converting a newly closed BOP facility for ICE detention flies in the face of the administration’s commitment to fight for racial equity and disavows the very foundational principles of the executive order. The perverse financial incentives that drive incarceration are ever present and thriving in ICE detention — when will Biden act on his promise to bring justice and fairness to the immigration system?”
Heidi Altman, Policy Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, said:
“President Biden entered office promising to address human rights abuses and racial injustice in the immigration system. Since then, his administration has increased by thousands the number of people locked in ICE detention, extended existing contracts with private prison companies in places where local governments have explicitly rejected ICE detention, entered a contract to detain immigrant teenagers, and now is signing agreements to open a massive new for-profit immigrant detention center. For ICE and the private prison industry, cruelty—and profit—is the point. Unfortunately, it seems like President Biden is embracing that cruelty more every day.”
The number of people in immigration detention has increased 70% since the start of the Biden Administration, driven in large part by the Administration’s choice to detain people seeking humanitarian protection.
Despite decisive momentum among state and local government leaders to shut down immigration detention facilities and contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Biden Administration has moved to maintain and expand immigration detention capacity, including through contracts with private prison companies.
This summer, York County, Pennsylvania, ended its contract with ICE to hold immigrants in the York County Prison, a victory for advocates who had long criticized inhumane conditions at the facility and demanded its closure.
This week, an agreement was reached between ICE, Clearfield County PA, and the Geo Group to re-open the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Pennsylvania to operate as an immigration detention center, holding up to 1,900 people. It was previously a federal Bureau of Prisons facility that closed in March.
President Biden signed an executive order during his first week of office phasing out contracts with private prison operators, but the order does not apply to immigration facilities.
Reports indicate other former BOP facilities such as the notorious CoreCivic-run Leavenworth facility in Kansas may be transformed into immigration detention facilities for ICE.
We Are Home is a nationwide campaign to fight for immigrant communities on three fronts: prioritizing and demanding a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America; a moratorium and overhaul of interior enforcement; and broad affirmative relief from deportation. We Are Home is co-chaired by Community Change/Community Change Action; National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)/Care in Action; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers/UFW Foundation; and United We Dream.