Biden Pledged to Close For-Profit ICE Detention Centers. Will He Follow Through? – By Noah Lanard (Mother Jones) / January 27 2021
His executive order stopping the use of private prisons didn’t include immigrant detention facilities.
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In 2019, Wilfred requested protection from political persecution at a California border crossing because he saw the United States as a beacon of hope. Instead, Wilfred, an African asylum seeker who asked to be identified by a pseudonym to protect associates in his home country from retaliation, wound up at a Mississippi immigration detention center with practices that he compared to the slave trade. Prison officials told detainees to walk with their hands behind their back, avoid eye contact with their jailers, and speak only when spoken to.
After Mississippi, Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent Wilfred to Louisiana, where he used his training as a lawyer to help fellow detainees fight their cases. In what he says was retaliation for his lawyering, ICE moved him to the Allen Parish jail, another Louisiana detention center that he called “hell itself.” Upon arriving, he recalled an assistant warden, who was white, telling him, “I hear you’re the trouble maker. If you try to create trouble for me here, I’ll shoot you.”
Wilfred’s experience—the indefinite detention, the trauma it caused, and the money prison companies made in the process—encapsulates the detention system President Joe Biden has taken over. The Trump administration took the already large detention network operated by ICE and pushed it to record size by opening more than 40 new detention centers. But during the pandemic, detention levels fell to the lowest in decades, largely due to a Trump administration policy of summarily expelling people at the border. It means that Biden has taken office with roughly 15,000 people in detention, down from an all-time high of more than 55,000 in the summer of 2019 and about 41,000 in November 2016.