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Non-Profit Wants Jack Harwell Detention Center to Stop Housing Immigrant Detainees

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(KCEN) – American Gateways, a non-profit based out of Austin, wants to stop the Jack Harwell Detention Center from housing immigrant detainees.

 The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, contracts out to different facilities like the Harwell center to hold the detainees.

American Gateways offers legal help to immigrants, and believe detainees’ held at the Harwell facility is inappropriate. “When you go there it is clear this is a criminal, penal institution which is exactly what ICE indicated they were moving away from,” American Gateways staff attorney Stephanie Taylor said.

Taylor says being in the U.S. illegally is a civil violation, not a criminal offense, so many of these detainees are not serving criminal sentences. “They’ve only been charged with a civil violation of the immigrant code, which again is why we feel this center is inappropriate,” Taylor said. “There are some individuals there that may qualify for asylum or protection and they need to be afforded that opportunity.”

Taylor says they became concerned with the facility and requested a tour last month. During their visit she says several things were concerning. “There was no mechanism for personal visits or contact for visits. There was very little access to outdoor recreation and access to telephones was very problematic,” she said.

Taylor also says there was limited access for the detainees to get legal help. She wants ICE to stop the contracts with Harwell.

ICE sent us the following statement:

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to providing all detainees in our custody with safe detention environments. The Jack Harwell Detention Center meets the applicable ICE detention standards and has successfully passed inspection reviews. Independent detention inspections are conducted by private contractors with extensive corrections experience to ensure quality assurance over the review process, consistency in the application of detention standards, and verification of corrective actions, if any.  ICE is open to discussing any concerns with our partnering agencies regarding the detainees housed at their facilities.”

The detention center has not returned our calls about the issue.

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