By Adam Shaw
May 20, 2021
The Biden administration announced Thursday that it will no longer use two immigration detention facilities where there are ongoing investigations into accusations of misconduct and abuse – including a claim that unwanted medical procedures were carried out on migrants in one of the facilities.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will no longer use the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Both were being run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The facility in Bristol County, run under an agreement with the local sheriff’s office, is “no longer operationally necessary,” DHS said in a statement. The Washington Post reported that the Bristol facility is holding seven detainees, while Irwin has 114.
The Irwin facility was the subject of a whistleblower accusation last year in which it was claimed that a doctor performed unwanted hysterectomies on female inmates. There were also further allegations of unsanitary conditions at the facility. The DHS Office of Inspector General is investigating the allegations and the doctor accused has denied wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the Post reported that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office is under investigation after staff used pepper balls and a flash-bang against detainees who threw chairs at staff amid a dispute over COVID-19 testing and isolation.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made reference to the allegations in a statement.
“Allow me to state one foundational principle: We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention,” Mayorkas said in a memo to acting ICE Director Tae Johnson.
DHS said that it will preserve evidence for ongoing investigations and the transfer of detained migrants “whose continued detention remains necessary to achieve our national security, public safety, and border security mission.”
It comes as part of a review of migrant detention by the Biden administration, as it seeks to change a number of border, immigration and enforcement policies and practices from the Trump administration.
“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas said. “This marks an important first step to realizing that goal. DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.”
Johnson, in a statement, said that that ICE “will continue to ensure it has sufficient detention space to hold noncitizens as appropriate.”