Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin is one of the 10 worst immigration detention centers in the country and should be closed, according to a human rights campaign; however, a federal official says an overhaul of the detention system has led to increased oversight and improved conditions in the facility.
Tri-County, which houses a large federal immigration detainee population, was cited in a report released by a national coalition of community leaders and advocates Thursday.
The report details “human rights violations and lack of oversight by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” according to a coalition news release, and was made public at the launch of the group’s national “Expose and Close” campaign.
The campaign calls on President Barack Obama to close Tri-County and other detention centers that made the “10 worst” list.
“The abuses we see at Tri-County are a snapshot of those occurring in immigration detention centers throughout the country,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. “The Obama administration must end this crisis by closing Tri-County and every facility that fails to respect human rights, and by stopping the expansion and privatization of the immigration detention system.”
Tri-County has a number of problems, according to the report, including extreme isolation.
Because of its remote location, more than a six-hour drive from the closet legal aid providers in Chicago, detainees have difficulty finding legal representation and maintaining contact with family.
Health and medical services are “grossly understaffed” at the facility, phones often do not work, but when they do, call costs are “exorbitant,” according to the report.
“Rather than continuing to subject immigrants to the appalling conditions at places like Tri-County, our country should be developing more alternatives to detention, and rethinking why we are detaining and deporting so many immigrants,” Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights policy director Fred Tsao said.
Tri-County officials referred questions to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Officials with ICE are in the process of reviewing the reports and have offered to meet with its authors, Gail Montenegro of ICE Public Affairs Chicago said in an email.
“However, it is disappointing that the reports appear to be built primarily on anonymous allegations that cannot be investigated or substantiated, and many second-hand sources and anecdotes that pre-date the agency’s initiation of detention reform,” Montenegro said. “ICE stands behind the significant work we’ve done reforming the detention system by increasing federal oversight, improving conditions of confinement and prioritizing the health and safety of the individuals in our custody.”
The agency has implemented reforms and initiatives to ensure concerns can be reported “in real time” and established an Office of the Public Advocate for complaint resolution as well as a toll-free hotline for community or individual concerns to be voiced, Montenegro said.
Other facilities targeted in the new report are in Alabama, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, California and Florida.
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