Expansion Would Create Country’s Largest Immigrant Detention Center
ATLANTA – Efrén C. Olivares, Deputy Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project, released the following statement regarding Folkston Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Processing Center in South Georgia:
“The planned massive expansion of the Folkston ICE Processing Center in South Georgia is horrifying news and a betrayal of the promises made by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and this administration. It is an outrage to see the Department of Homeland Security expand this GEO Group-run facility on such a scale, after President Biden campaigned on rolling back federal contracts with private prison companies and making our immigration system more humane.
“Immigration detention is not an abstract concept—it means families are torn apart, men and women are incarcerated in dangerous conditions with soaring infection rates during a deadly pandemic, and individuals often suffer abuse, mistreatment, and violations of fundamental rights. Our government should not incarcerate anyone solely because of their immigration status. Rather than expanding these detention centers, the Biden administration should be closing them.
“Georgia already hosts the country’s largest and deadliest immigration detention facility, Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, which can detain over 2,000 people. Stewart is known for high suicide numbers among the people detained there, has the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19, and has the second highest number of people currently infected with COVID-19 (as of January 31), according to ICE’s published data. The SPLC is already suing the private prison company that runs Stewart for operating a forced labor program. Expanding Folkston to nearly twice the size of Stewart and creating a mega-detention center in a remote part of the state that will also be run by a private prison company is a slap in the face for a state and a community that has delivered for this Administration again and again.
“The Biden administration should fulfill its long overdue commitment to decrease reliance on immigration detention, instead of rewarding predatory private prison companies, which only serve the corporations’ bottom lines at the expense of the lives of immigrants and rural communities.
“The SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative teams have represented hundreds of individuals who have been subject to severe medical abuse and general neglect, including individuals at Folkston. We stand in solidarity with all our partners and community members who have worked to provide relief to those subjected to abuse in these facilities and we will continue to fight this expansion, and work to end ICE detention."
Last Fall, two Congressional reports – one from the House Homeland Security Committee and one from the Oversight Committee – exposed ICE’s failure to meet basic standards of care and the deadly medical neglect at their detention facilities.