Faced with a growing number of families from Central America attempting to illegally cross the Texas-Mexico border and complaints about the inhumane treatment of those families, federal officials are planning a new for-profit detention facility in South Texas for immigrant children and their parents.
The facility, which will be named the "South Texas Family Detention Center," is meant to hold 2,400 beds on a sprawling 50-acre site 70 miles southwest of San Antonio, the Texas Observer, reports.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) insists everything is aboveboard, but there are some details that could raise some eyebrows.
The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” better known in the oil patch as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm connected to San Antonio mogul Red McCombs. Loren Gulley, vice president for Koontz McCombs, said the company is still negotiating the deal but Corrections Corporation of America—the world’s largest for-private prison company—is expected to run the detention center, and Koontz McCombs would lease the existing “man camp” to ICE. A detailed site map provided to Frio County shows a large fenced campus, including both residential housing as well as a gym, chapel and “community pavilions.” The “man camp” has enough space to temporarily house 680 detainees while new structures are being built, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.
ICE and Corrections Corporation of America haven't exactly had the best track record for creating facilities intended for immigrant families. In 2009, the Obama administration had to close off the T. Don Hutto Residential Center for families because of numerous reports of human rights violations that resulted in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic.
Earlier this year, ICE converted the Karnes County Residential Center to meet the growing numbers of families that needed to be accommodated. However, even that has been laden with problems, causing an uproar among immigrant activists. In one instance finally resolved this week, authorities delayed the release of a 7-year-old Salvadoran girl with cancer and her mother so that the girl could receive treatment.
"In the face of unprecedented levels of illegal migration of adults with children and unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, we have reiterated that our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, and don't have a legal basis to stay under our laws, we will send you back," Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said of the Karnes facility. "The opening of this additional facility represents our continued commitment to provide temporary facilities for adults with children while they undergo removal proceedings, and it is part of DHS' sustained and aggressive campaign to stem the tide of illegal migration from Central America."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.