Hundreds of asylum seekers in ICE detention centers in Louisiana are forced to pay for private transportation options to get to an airport or bus station when released, a decision that is not Compliant with ICE release protocols, according to immigration advocates and nonprofits.
According to the 2011 National ICE Performance-Based Detention Standards (revised 2016), detention centers more than a mile from public transport “must transport detainees to bus / train / metro stations. local before the time of the last bus / train. leave these stations for the day.
None of the ICE detention centers in Louisiana are within walking distance of public transportation. However, asylum seekers are often offered a list of taxi providers who can take them to the nearest transportation for a cost of up to $ 250 each way per immigrant, according to documents obtained by The Acadiana Advocate.
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Simple provider lists printed on white paper and handed out by detention center staff include up to seven taxi companies that detainees and their families or sponsors are encouraged to contact to arrange their travel.
“Despite the fact that immigrants released from detention have a strong network of relatives ready to help them with their movements, ICE does not allow people to communicate adequately with their support networks, nor does it provide them with safe and efficient public transportation options, “said Jeff Migliozzi, communications manager for Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit that filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security in July about release practices.
âImmigrants and their families have to pay hundreds of dollars for private taxis or miss their scheduled flights,â he said.
According to Freedom For Immigrants’ interactive U.S. Immigration Detention Map, there are 11 ICE detention centers statewide, and nine of them are run by private companies. ICE’s main partner in Louisiana is the GEO Group, a for-profit prison company that operates 57 facilities across the United States, including four detention facilities in Louisiana – La Salle ICE Processing Center, Alexandria Staging Facility, Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center and South Louisiana Ice Processing Center.
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In fiscal 2017, GEO Group received $ 184 million from the federal government, more than any other ICE contractor, followed by Corrections Corporation of America / CoreCivic which received $ 135 million for services related to the detention of immigrants, according to data.
When asked whether the four GEO facilities in Louisiana comply with the 2011 ICE release protocols and whether the company has any existing contracts or agreements with taxi providers in Louisiana, the GEO Group declined to comment on the matter.
According to federal government data, Louisiana has the second highest number of people detained in the United States per day, with 4,415 people detained per day as of April 2019.
A US House investigation by the Homeland Security Committee revealed “a disturbing pattern of ICE contracts with Louisiana facilities that are ill-equipped to meet ICE’s own detention standards.” The report, released in September 2020, also pointed out that the surveillance failures include “facilities, particularly in Louisiana, which had a well-publicized history of abuse prior to contracting with ICE.”
When asked if ICE facilities in Louisiana follow agency guidelines for release procedures, an ICE official said, “ICE makes custody decisions every day on a case-by-case basis. cases, in accordance with US law and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy, taking into account the merits and factors of each individual case while respecting the agency’s current priorities, guidelines and legal mandates. â
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A few weeks ago, the federal agency began dropping off asylum seekers at the Lafayette Regional Airport every week, a move local immigration activists saw as an encouraging effort to comply with protocols. release. Daniela Faries, a 28-year-old asylum seeker from Venezuela, was one of dozens of immigrants who were offered a free ride by detention officers in a van.
“I didn’t know I had this option when I was waiting for my papers,” said Faries, who spent three months in the ICE detention center run by GEO Group in Basil after crossing the US-Mexico border in Texas. . âUsually that’s not how it goes. I know many still pay to be transported.
Louisiana advocates have pointed out that private taxis are not considered public transportation and the associated costs create logistical problems for those released. But taxi providers have defended their service.
“Our reputation speaks for itself both with inmates and staff, and our name is well known for that reason,” said David Jr. Hernandez, son of David Hernandez, a taxi company owner. of the same name, which operates in central Louisiana. âOur service is above the race. We provide immigrants with a free meal, free backpacks if needed, toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other basic necessities, âsaid Hernandez Jr., who is a retired ICE agent. âWe are also fluent in Spanish, Creole French and some Portuguese. We’re also here to help.
In a telephone interview with The Advocate, senior David Hernandez confirmed that the flat rate for a one-way trip from the South Louisiana Detention Center to Basile to the Lafayette Regional Airport is $ 200 per immigrant.
“We have no agreement with any detention center,” Hernandez said. âThey just know us because we’ve been operating in Louisiana for years. Anyone can trust us.
More recent federal guidelines on the release process have made the language less clear about the responsibilities of each detention facility in relation to the ICE protocols of 2011. The National Detention Standards revised in 2019 stated that âwhere appropriate and necessary, institutions must transport detainees to local public transport stations at a time when such public transport is operating â. But ICE detention centers in Louisiana, with the exemption from Ferriday’s River Correctional Center, are not required to follow these more recent guidelines at this time and are expected to follow the 2011 standards, according to Freedom For Immigrants.
âThis is a humanitarian failure of the government’s own initiative,â said Jeff Migliozzi of Freedom For Immigrants. âIf ICE officials followed their own protocols, many of these situations could be avoided. “