One of the first things Donald Trump did when he took office this year was sign an executive order detailing plans to target and deport undocumented immigrants. Part of that plan was to expand the powers of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents, recruit local law enforcement to work for ICE, and create more prison space to detain immigrants.
On Thursday, private prison corporation the GEO Group announced that it had won the first federal contract under this administration to open a new “immigration center” in Conroe, TX. The new detention center—worth $100 million—will hold 1,000 people and open in 2018, local TV station KHOU reports. This will be the second ICE detention center operated by the GEO Group in Conroe, which has a population of roughly 71,000.
In just the first month after Trump was sworn in, the Los Angeles Times reported, 1,100 new immigration detention beds were added to detention centers nationally.
The contract is a “sign that the Trump administration’s plans are a huge boondoggle for the private prison industry,” Carl Takei, Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told The Associated Press.
The use of private prisons, which the Obama administration moved to curtail, has been criticized by human rights and criminal justice reform advocates because of their track record of inmate abuse and neglect.
And the treatment of immigration detainees in both private and public prisons stand to worsen under Trump. Just yesterday, a New York Times report suggested that the administration is about to reverse regulations meant to hold detention facilities to higher standards in how they treat people being held on immigration rather than criminal charges.
In February, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era commitment to stop using private prisons for federal detention facilities. To be clear, that commitment never included immigration detention centers, a fact that was widely criticized at the time. Private prison companies’ stocks rose dramatically after that move, and immediately after Trump was elected.
The private prison industry already controls around 62% of all immigration detention beds in the nation, according to a 2015 report from Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group.
If this new facility in Texas is any indication, that number is about to rise.