A Sunday visit to a privately-operated American immigration detention center

Source: Monica Campbell, PRI, October 3, 2016

The center is one of 637 facilities in the United States holding, detaining or processing immigrants. In fiscal year 2015, 325,209 people were processed through these facilities — mostly to be deported, but also because they were released on bond or because they were found to have a lawful right to stay in the country. Most of the facilities are operated by private contractors, including Corrections Corporation of America, which runs Eloy. Most people are inside for minor, non-violent crimes. The people gathered in the van this morning have plenty in common. They share Mexican heritage, have lived in the US for years and do manual work, like cleaning houses and pools, fixing cars or taking care of the elderly. They are all off to visit a relative — a son, father, husband or wife — detained at Eloy. They are mixed-status families split by detention, with deportation a real possibility. … According to ICE data obtained and analyzed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, about 7,000 people were detained at Eloy in fiscal year 2015. The facility holds about 1,500 people — men and women — in minimum and medium security conditions. It has remained close to full since 2010, according to ICE. Families, like those I met, must set aside most of the day for visiting their relatives. The process involves moving through a series of waiting rooms over several hours until a family’s turn comes up. You’re also stripped of all belongings before you are allowed your one-hour visit in a room filled with tables and vending machines. … According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 5.1 million children in the US live with an undocumented immigrant parent. That means, as is the case for German, they live with the possibility that their parents will be detained or deported. But, during the family’s visit, there was no talk about that. Rather, they discussed football practice and how homework was going. Normal family life. …