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SPLC: Transfers Undermine Sec. Mayorkas’ Pledge

Irwin Action a Start but DHS Must Prioritize Release of Individuals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued the following statement by Maura Finn, lead attorney with SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, regarding the long-overdue end to the practice of caging immigrants at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.


In May, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to close the facility, which has a long and well-documented history of inflicting horrific abuse and neglect on people detained there. In announcing the directive to ICE, Secretary Mayorkas said, “We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”


Maura Finn, lead attorney with SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, said:


“Today’s actions reflect a promise to ensure an immigrant held in detention will not be subject to abuse at ICDC, but it is disappointing that rather than releasing the individuals held, ICE has simply transferred them to other facilities also rife with horrific abuses. The reality also remains that ICDC continues to incarcerate.


“The vast majority of immigration detention facilities are unable to fulfill their responsibilities to the people they detain, resulting in substandard conditions and mistreatment. Transferring people from Irwin to yet another abusive facility, like the Stewart Detention Center which has had among the highest number of deaths in the country, directly contradicts Secretary Mayorkas’ pledge.


“It is even more troubling that some people, including medically-vulnerable individuals, are being sent from facility to facility – particularly amid the latest COVID-19 surges happening around the country, especially in the Southeast.


“This practice flagrantly violates CDC guidance, which limits the transfer of detained individuals to specific circumstances like preventing overcrowding or provision of clinical care. Moreover, ICE is failing to properly track transfers of medically-vulnerable individuals, further putting them in harm’s way in this inhumane and unnecessary system of immigrant detention.


“We reiterate our calls for ICE to release individuals detained at ICDC and for Congress to end ICE detention.”