CCA and its starring role in a series of scandals and embarrassments across the country. Perhaps the worst of the assorted controversies is the Nashville company's neglectful management of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in a dusty Texas town, which, until people began to notice, was a cheaply run gulag for immigrant families—the type of place where mothers and sons once shared open toilets in the same tiny cell.
Meanwhile, I should add, CCA's well-respected CEO, John Ferguson, sits on the elite board of the Nashville symphony while corporate counsel Gus Puryear belongs to the rich and lilly white Belle Meade Country Club. So, unlike the families in their care, Gus and John probably take for granted the luxury of a quiet moment on the throne.
Anyhow, we digress: CCA along with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division, which contracts with the private jailer, ultimately reformed the Hutto facility after the ACLU took them to court. So it is a better place now. But why wasn't it like that when it opened?
Although CCA deserves most of the blame for the initial conditions at the Hutto facility, ICE can't claim innocence. Privately, ICE's own inspectors sharply castigated the private company for how it ran Hutto, saying at one point that “CCA's attitude is one of complacency and disinterest in their work performance.” But publicly the federal immigration agency proudly touted the improvements to Hutto without noting that it took a lawsuit to convince CCA that providing prenatal care to detainees is kind of necessary.
Even more revelatory is another secret memo
from ICE that details why a detention facility in Laredo would have been preferable to Hutto, which is located hours from the border in Taylor, Texas. First sent anonymously to lawyer Barbara Hines, a professor at the University of Texas who helped bring the lawsuit against the Hutto facility, the memo is an odd and contradictory document. Nearly all of it expresses concern for the comfort and integrity of the immigrant detainees and states a strong preference for housing families at a more suitable facility in Laredo.
But the last part of the document, if I'm reading it correctly, seems to suggest that another disadvantage of Hutto is that it is close to Austin, where there's a strong activist community. As it turns out, it was that community that highlighted the problems with the place.
After the jump, some excerpts of the memo:
“The Laredo facility has an 'open dorm' concept; the dorms at Hutto are cells within bars.”
“Barbed wire completely surrounds the Hutto facility, whereas Laredo has barbed wire on the backside which is not visible in front of the building.”
“Hutto has not passed previous inspections as an ADULT facility. It appears that it would be more difficult to meet standards for juveniles.”
“The railroad trains frequently block intersections to the Hutto facility thus making access difficult. Evacuations at Hutto would be more difficult. In the case of a train derailment, the risk of hazardous material by families would be present.”
“Austin, which is 25 miles from Hutto, has a broader NGO and CBO base that have typically been very strong advocates for immigrants. The Political Asylum Project of Austin also known as PAPA is a pro-bono agency actively involved in the advocacy for immigrants.”
In this week's cover story, we