- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2021

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered the closure of two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities Thursday and indicated others soon will be shut as well.

The closures target facilities in Georgia and Massachusetts with which ICE had contracted. Mr. Mayorkas also said he was canceling a 287(g) cooperation agreement with the sheriff in Bristol County, Massachusetts, which immigrant-rights advocates cheered.

Mr. Mayorkas suggested the closures were as much a statement on the treatment of immigrants as they were about operational needs.

“Allow me to state one foundational principle: We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention,” he said in a memo to ICE’s acting director, in which he also said he’s reviewing ICE’s entire detention posture.

In Georgia, Mr. Mayorkas wants to end ICE’s use of the Irwin County Detention Center, which was struck last year with accusations of performing unnecessary and intrusive operations such as hysterectomies on migrants without full permission.

Those claims are still under investigation, though the Trump administration said an initial review did not substantiate them.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson denounced Mr. Mayorkas’ attack on his facility and his department.

“This is nothing but a political hit job,” he said in a statement. “This decision puts the people of Bristol County, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America at greater risk of being victimized by criminal illegal aliens.”

The sheriff planned a press conference Friday to elaborate on his response.

Irwin County had a contract with ICE for a guaranteed minimum of 600 paid-for beds, though, as of the last tally earlier this month, fewer than half were filled. Bristol also was holding far fewer due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

“DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today,” Mr. Mayorkas said.

According to ICE’s own data, both the Georgia and Massachusetts facilities met standards in their most recent reviews last fall.

Immigration activists who want to see ICE defunded or severely curtailed cheered Mr. Mayorkas’ moves as good first steps.

“Today’s announcements show the Biden administration’s willingness to decisively break from the immigrants’ rights abuses of prior administrations,” said Naureen Shah at the American Civil Liberties Union, who called for more action “to pull the plug on a system that has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars and inflicted trauma and profound harm on hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their loved ones.”

The ACLU said Mr. Mayorkas must end ICE’s other 287(g) cooperative agreements. Those allow local law enforcement in prisons and jails to spot deportable migrants, flag them for ICE and begin the paperwork on their cases.

Nearly 150 jurisdictions have some sort of 287(g) deal with ICE.

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