Recent contract documents reveal the Texas Port Isabel Detention Center is subjecting the average 1115 people it locks up each night to overcrowding, and that 90 per cent of them have no criminal records.
On February 11 and 12, 2014 representatives from several private prison firms visited the Port Isabel Facility. Then they submitted questions, to assist in them preparing bids. You can read the Q and A here.
The contractor question published here does not mention the precise level of overcrowding but it appears to be a) systemic; and b) of no concern to ICE.
This is important not only because of the inherent problem of subjecting those in civil detention to conditions deemed impermissible for criminal punishment, and not only because of ICE indifference to this. This is the answer ICE gives to private prison firms, authorizing their violations but it is not the answer ICE gives Congress and the American public. By ICE insisting that its facilities meet the American Correction Association standards for criminal inmates, for instance, in its Annual Performance Reports to Congress (see U.S. Department of Homeland Security Annual Performance Report for Fiscal Years (FY) 2012 – 2014) ICE is just lying. And when ICE tells the contractors that the agency has no intention of following the ACA standards for bed space, it is sending a signal that the agency may condone violations as well.
If ICE can't be trusted to adhere to basic quantifiable standards such as bed occupancy, and to accurately represent their non-compliance in their communications with Congress, including their budget proposals, this is further evidence of the need for ending detention under immigration laws altogether.
The demonstrable problem is too many beds, but absent their actual use there would appear to be no reason for ICE's commitment to the noncompliant infrastructure. Moreover, ICE can't credibly tout its adherence to ACA standards and then slough off those that it deems superfluous.
On the one side of the practice are the harms being committed every day by the government, including false imprisonment of U.S citizens and their banishment, as well as corrosion of the rule of law. On the other side, well, immigrants, economists, and human rights professionals agree there is no upside to this.
Also, of interest is that 90% of those held at the Port Isabel facility have no criminal history whatsoever.
Definitions (from ICE Statistics): "Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 offenders. Level 1 offenders are those aliens convicted of "aggravated felonies," as defined in Â§ 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year, commonly referred to as "felonies." Level 2 offenders are aliens convicted of any other felony or three or more crimes each punishable by less than one year, commonly referred to as "misdemeanors." Level 3 offenders are aliens convicted of "misdemeanor" crime(s) punishable by less than one year. Prior to FY 2011, ICE used SC levels 1, 2, and 3 for prioritization purposes."