Two defenders told POLITICO that on Tuesday they did not believe an order would ultimately materialize. The White House plans to deploy further executive actions related to immigration later this week. In a briefing Tuesday, Susan Rice, director of Biden’s home policy council, said the private prisons ordinance is “silent on what may or may not happen with the ICE facilities.”
If Biden does not issue a similar order for the ICE contracts, it would deeply disrupt the immigrant advocacy community. Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center, said lack of action would mean “private prisons are unacceptable to those who are part of the criminal justice system, but not to those in the immigration legal system.” .
“They have now ordered the DOJ to phase out the use of private prisons, which means that it is recognized that no one should profit from the caging of human beings,” said Lorella Praeli, chair of the group. Community Change Action base. “It’s an incomplete vision if it doesn’t tackle the ice holding.”
In recent years, immigration and customs enforcement have increasingly relied on private institutions to detain immigrants, a practice that intensified under the Obama administration and exploded under the enforcement of the hard line immigration system. About 81% of immigrants held in ICE custody were held in for-profit detention centers as of January 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, according to an ACLU report.
Progressive groups have long struggled against the use of private facilities, arguing that the companies that run them are able to shirk responsibility and leave immigrants in dire and deteriorating conditions. They called on the Department of Homeland Security to cancel contracts with private companies. The best progressive lawmakers back their call.
“This is a great development and a milestone,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) tweeted after Biden signed the decree on private prisons. But she added, “There is more to be done to end the for-profit caging of people in the United States. We need to include ending for-profit immigrant detention and looking at the use of for-profit services that also strain the families of those held in public prisons.
The question of phasing out for-profit establishments holding migrants arose at the end of the administration of former President Barack Obama. During his final months in office, Obama asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to study ICE’s use of private detention centers and “assess whether this practice should be eliminated.” In December 2016, the subcommittee responsible for the two-month study finally concluded with a majority vote “that a measured but deliberate abandonment of the private prison model was justified” – a decision that rights activists of immigrants hoped the next Democratic administration would undertake. .
The report also found that the ICE should look for ways to “reduce the use of detention in county jails.”