Earthquake Refugees Being Held in Facility Run by GEO Group
The New York Times reports today on the case of 30 Haitians who are being held in an immigration detention facility in Florida. The detainees, none of whom have a criminal background, were waved onto US military planes in the chaotic aftermath of the earthquake. When they arrived in Orlando it was discovered that they did not have visas and were promptly taken into custody. The Times reports that after numerous inquiries, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said that the detainees were “being processed for release,” and revealed that there were an additional 35 Haitians being detained in other parts of the country. The Times reports that:
The detainees have received little or no mental health care for the trauma they suffered, lawyers at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center said, despite an offer of free treatment at the jail by a local Creole-speaking psychotherapist.
Advocates working for their release wrote to ICE, saying:
“Their prolonged and unnecessary detention is only exacerbating their trauma,” the advocates wrote to the agency on March 19, after receiving no response to detailed, individual requests for release by two dozen of the detainees. “There is no reason to spend taxpayer dollars detaining traumatized earthquake survivors who cannot be deported and who have demonstrated that they are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.”
An interesting fact, not mentioned in the Times coverage, is that the facility in Florida where the Haitian quake survivors have been held for nearly three months is run by the private prison company, GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut. The company has been involved in numerous scandals and lawsuits have been filed over the conditions at both their prisons and immigration facilities. The group is also in charge of the Migrant Operations Center at Guantanamo Bay. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the GEO Group received a contract from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency worth over $250,000 for "guard services." See our previous post, "Private Prison Company Gets Haiti Contract", here.