ICE to convert private Pennsylvania prison into for-profit immigrant detention center

Philipsburg, Pennsylvania – Despite promising to end for-profit federal prisons, Biden instead seems to be allowing them to transform into private immigration detention centers.

Biden signed an executive order saying the Justice Department would not renew its contracts with for-profit prisons, but he did not extend that ban to ICE (stock image).
Biden signed an executive order saying the Justice Department would not renew its contracts with for-profit prisons, but he did not extend that ban to ICE (stock image).  © 123RF/kodda

At least, that's what's happening in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, where US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to house 1,875 people, Business Insider reported.

The jail-turned-detention center will be run by GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit detention companies.

After taking office, Biden signed an executive order saying the Justice Department would not renew its contracts with for-profit prison companies, but he did not extend that commitment to ICE.

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Under his presidency, the number of people detained in ICE facilities has risen from 14,000 to 22,000. At the same time, the administration is looking into opening a "temporary housing facility" at Guantanamo Bay.

Advocates slam the decision

Immigrants' rights advocates are criticizing the Biden administration for allowing ICE to continue operating for-profit facilities (stock image).
Immigrants' rights advocates are criticizing the Biden administration for allowing ICE to continue operating for-profit facilities (stock image).  © 123RF/serrnovik

Immigrants' rights advocates are outraged at the move, especially as ICE facilities run by GEO Group have a terrible track record when it comes to human rights.

Detention Watch Network Advocacy Director Setareh Ghandehari said the decision "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."

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Heidi Altman, policy director for the National Immigrant Justice Center, pointed out in a Twitter threat that the Philipsburg facility isn't a one-off case.

For-profit prisons in Kansas and Tennessee are hoping ICE will bail them out and keep them operational as their contract end dates approach.

Altman also noted that ICE is trying to renew contracts in Washington and New Jersey, even though both states voted to ban future contracts with for-profit detention centers.

In February, an ICE center to detain migrant youth was opened in Virginia.

The news that for-profit prisons are becoming for-profit immigrant detention centers comes as the Biden administration faces backlash over its inhumane treatment and mass deportations of Haitians at the US-Mexico border.

Cover photo: 123RF/kodda

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