Ilhan Omar, Democrats Ask Biden Administration to Bar ICE from Contracting with State, Local Prisons and Jails

Minnesota's Representative Ilhan Omar speaks to the crowd during a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at The Saint Paul River Centre on March 2, 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on the eve of "Super Tuesday" Democratic presidential primaries. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by …
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is leading a group of Democrat lawmakers asking the Biden administration to prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from contracting with state and local prisons or jails, citing poor conditions and for-profit motives.

In a March 15 letter addressed to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, the Democrat lawmakers praised the Biden administration for its January 26 executive order to phase out the use of private detention facilities but called for further action.

“We support the calls from more than 70 Congressional offices to expand this Executive Order to incorporate privately operated immigration detention facilities under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” they wrote adding privately operated facilities “are not the only instance in which financial incentives fuel needless expansion of immigration detention.”

“We urge the Biden administration to release an additional Executive Order announcing a plan to phase out contracts between ICE and state, county, and local jails and prisons,” they wrote.

The Democrats cited a Brookings Institute report indicating 49 percent of people in ICE detention were held in county facilities alone, arguing financial incentives to detain migrants exist and remain problematic:

In some cases, localities subsequently sub-contract services for operating detention facilities to private prison companies. In other instances, localities reserve space in local, county, or state jails and prisons for the purposes of detaining immigrants. In all cases, localities are financially incentivized to detain immigrants.

Such facilities, the Democrats continued, “mirror the systemic abuses in privately operated immigration detention facilities, including medical neglect, long term use of solitary confinement, sexual assault, and lack of access to legal counsel.”

The letter cited an Ohio case at Morrow County Jail as an example of “egregious” medical neglect because all detained migrants tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus after officials failed to implement basic health measures, according to the Democrats.

The letter did not address reports of Biden officials releasing border crossers into the U.S. only to test positive for the virus following their release.

As Breitbart News reported:

After taking office, Biden reinstated the Catch and Release program where border crossers are freed into the U.S. interior while they await asylum and immigration hearings that many do not ultimately attend, instead opting to live illegally in the country.

Aside from about 25,600 migrants enrolled in the now-canceled Remain in Mexico program, border crossers released into the U.S. interior are not required to test negative for the coronavirus. Instead, communities along the border are being forced to test border crossers themselves.

“We urge the Biden-Harris administration to immediately enact an additional Executive Order to phase out contracts or agreements between ICE and/or the USMS with states, counties, and municipalities for the purposes of immigration detention,” the Democrats concluded in the letter.

Signatories of the letter include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is expected to visit the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday.


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