Closing private detention centers for migrants would pose problems -U.S. agents

jueves 8 de septiembre de 2016 06:00 GYT

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Federal immigration agents have raised concerns about the U.S. government possibly ending its use of private detention centers used to detain undocumented migrants, a potential policy shift that some say could damage the United States' capacity to enforce its immigration laws.

In line with a Justice Department move to phase out privately managed federal prisons, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said last month it would consider a similar change for the centers where thousands of migrants are detained, including those who have entered the country illegally and those seeking asylum or some other protected status.

There are more than 180 migrant detention centers in the United States, ranging from Pennsylvania to California, housing more than 33,000 people per day. Almost three-quarters of those detained are housed in centers that are run by or in conjunction with private contractors. (

Overcrowding and impaired border security could result from closures, said recent internal memos seen by Reuters, written by agents at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), both DHS agencies.

Debate within the DHS over the matter comes amid criticism of privately run prisons and migrant detention centers for being less safe than government-run facilities. Citing such concerns, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Aug. 18 it would phase out its use of private prisons.

That announcement hammered the stock prices of the companies that dominate the for-profit prison business. Shares of Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group Inc have fallen 41 percent and 25 percent respectively since the start of this year.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told an advisory council on Aug. 29 to review whether ICE should follow the Justice Department's lead and phase out private facilities.

The Homeland Security Advisory Council is expected to make a recommendation on whether ICE should end its use of private migrant detention centers to Johnson by Nov. 30.   Continuación...