A Texas county has voted to end its contract with a privately run immigrant detention facility as reverberations from President Donald Trump’s controversial policy to separate immigrant families at the border have made their way through American communities and, now, potentially impacted the bottom line of private prison corporations profiting from the incarceration of immigrants.
Williamson County commissioners voted on Tuesday to end their Intergovernmental Services Agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the operations at T Don Hutto Residential Centre, where women immigrants – including asylum seekers – are held.
Under the agreement, the county partnered with private prison company Core Civic, which handled the operation of the facility itself.
The decision comes as national attention has focused on Mr Trump’s family separation policies, which have separated at least 2,300 children from their parents after arriving at the US border since April.
The facility holds about 500 women, and activists say they know of between 35 and 45 women in the facility who had their children removed from them by immigration officials.
“This is very much in response to everything that has been going on,” Cristina Parker, the communications director for the immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said of the Williamson County decision to cut ties with ICE, which are scheduled to take effect on 31 January.
Ms Parker noted that protests at the facility, which opened in 2006, have not been uncommon.
Allegations by several detainees that they were sexually abused by guards are among the issues that she says have galvanized the local community against the facility.
At least one of those women, Laura Monterrosa, was placed in solitary confinement after she came forward with her allegations. It is unclear if the allegations were investigated.
“I think with everything that has been hitting the news lately – I think it has all sort of crescendoed today into the county feeling that they had to get out of the contract,” Ms Parker said.
Just a day before the commissioners pulled the plug on their agreement with ICE, a letter written by a woman held in the detention centre became public, detailing horrific conditions and treatment by federal immigration officials.
By Clark Mindock for Independent
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