The Biden administration has decided to close Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts amid allegations of abusive treatment of immigrants, officials said Thursday.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed ICE to terminate its contract with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and transfer migrant detainees out of the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigrant Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Mass.
The order comes four months after the Massachusetts Attorney General found that the sheriff’s office used excessive force against detainees – such as flash bang grenades, pepper-ball launchers and canines – in a clash over coronavirus testing at the facility in May 2020.
Mayorkas also directed ICE to prepare to discontinue its use of the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga, “as soon as possible.” NBC News reported last September that a gynecologist who worked at the facility was accused by multiple women of performing unnecessary procedures on them, including hysterectomies.
In a memo to ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson, Mayorkas said: “Allow me to state one foundational principle: we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
A source familiar with federal investigations into the detention center in Irwin County, Georgia and the doctor who allegedly performed unnecessary procedures said both investigations were “reactivated and ongoing.” The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigations.
The ACLU, which had been pushing for the closure of the two facilities as well as three dozen others, praised the move announced Thursday.
Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, called the termination of ICE contracts with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office a “long overdue and critical step in decoupling Massachusetts law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement.”
“By shuttering detention facilities with a track record of problematic conditions and ending local collaboration with ICE, we can work together toward a fairer and more humane immigration system,” Rose added.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson issued a sharply-worded statement Thursday afternoon.
"Shame on Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas for putting his left-wing political agenda above public safety by ending the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement," Hodgson said.
"This is nothing but a political hit job orchestrated by Sec. Mayorkas, the Biden administration and other anti-law enforcement groups to punish outspoken critics and advance their partisan agenda to score political points."
Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU, said the Irwin County Detention Center is “notorious for its dehumanizing and nightmarish conditions.”
“Today’s announcements show the Biden administration’s willingness to decisively break from the immigrants’ rights abuses of prior administrations,” Shah added.
The Irwin County Detention Center, which houses ICE detainees as well as inmates for Irwin County and the U.S. Marshals Service, is privately contracted by LaSalle Corrections.
LaSalle Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.