The federal government unveiled plans Tuesday to open a massive detention center in South Texas by November to lock up as many as 2,400 immigrant women and children at a time.
The South Texas Family Residential Center, a 50-acre facility in Dilley, Texas, will become the fourth detention center in the country to hold immigrant families as their cases make their way through the immigration courts.
Up to 480 women and children will be initially housed in the Dilley center when it opens in more than a month. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expects the facility to be at full capacity within seven months.
“These facilities will help ensure more timely and effective removals that comply with our legal and international obligations, while deterring others from taking the dangerous journey and illegally crossing into the United States,” ICE released in a statement.
To the ire of human rights groups that have adamantly opposed detaining immigrant families, the private prison firm that won the federal contract to run the facility – the Corrections Corporation of America – is the same for-profit company that’s behind a similar family detention center that was forced to shutter those operations more than five years ago over allegations of human rights abuses.
Advocates have raised alarms over the federal government’s expansions to its family detention facilities in order to cope with the influx of young children caught at the U.S. border who said they were fleeing from extreme violence in Central America. Earlier in the summer, federal immigration enforcement officials converted facilities in Artesia, New Mexico, to cater toward women and children, along with a makeshift detention center in Karnes, Texas, to add to the government’s long-standing location in Leesport, Pennsylvania.
“We’re concerned with this decision and the massive facility that will be opened in Dilley, Texas,” Karen Lucas, legislative associate at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in a statement. “Attorneys with long histories of representing clients at remote detention facilities have described the Artesia facility as not only the worst situation they’ve ever encountered, but something far worse than they could have imagined. If the Dilley facility implements the same rapid deportation model that we see in Artesia and Karnes, thousands of mothers and children who have suffered humanitarian atrocities will be unlawfully repatriated.”