Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has ordered a review to determine whether the government should end its use of privately-run immigration detention facilities.
In a statement, Johnson said he directed Judge William Webster, chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, to create a council subcommittee to review relevant polices and practices and to consider all factors including Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention policies, practices and costs. A written report is due back no later than Nov. 30, Johnson stated.
On Aug. 18, the Department of Justice announced the Bureau of Prisons would reduce and then end use of private prisons.
Justice officials said at the time private prisons did not provide the same level of correctional services, safety or save money. The department's inspector general also had said that the privately run facilities had more safety and security incidents.
The use of privately run immigration detention facilities has been an issue in this year's presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton has said she wants to end their use, but has been criticized for contributions given by the private prison industry to a political committee working to elect her. Donald Trump has not addressed the issue. He has an immigration speech planned for Wednesday in Phoenix, Arizona.
"It's necessary and it's good the administration is heeding the calls of the community. Detention centers, the hieleras. The egregious ways women and children and men are being kept have been a stain on our government and our country for far too long," said Greisa Martínez, advocacy director of United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy group. "We call on President Obama and Secretary Johnson to shut down detention centers and family detention centers and those run by private corporations."
Hieleras translates to icebox but is a word used to refer to facilities, often run by the Border Patrol, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, that are kept very cold. Border Patrol facilities were not mentioned in the statement.
Two of the largest operators of private immigration detention facilities are Geo Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America, CCA. Both said they welcomed the announcement.
Steve Owen, a spokesman for CCA, said ICE officials have unfettered, daily, onsite access to its facilities and is subject to thousands of government audits annually.
"We're proud of the quality of the services we provide and look forward to sharing that information with Judge Webster and his team," Owen said in a statement.
In a statement, GEO Group said its partnership with the federal government has allowed ICE to transer services from older jail facilities "that did not meet the most up-to-date national standards" to "GEO's highly rated, cost-effective facilities."
"We are confident that this independent review will show that GEO has provided needed, cost-effective services that have resulted in significantly improved safety outcomes for the men and women in ICE's care and custody," George C. Zoley, GEO's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.