The GEO Group, a private corrections corporation that manages 15 ICE detention centers in various states, has come under scrutiny for their expansion into case management work in an ICE pilot program for immigrants released from its own facilities.
Because of a federal court mandate, ICE announced a pilot program earlier this year that would release 1,500 immigrant families from detention and enter them into case management services who can connect them with legal services, enrollment in schooling for immigrant children, and other applicable public benefits.
In September, it was announced that the contract for this program would go to the GEO Group. “Truthfully we’re stunned and disappointed that ICE selected such an inappropriate provider,” Mary Small of Detention Watch Network told NPR. Many have called attention to the fact that GEO’s Family Case Management Program manager, a recent hire, is a former official in ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations, arguing that the pilot program could be significantly compromised by inappropriate connections between the two groups and the financial incentives to re-detaining released immigrants.
Immigrant defense advocates have long called for alternatives to detention for immigrant families, who often face long wait times in holding and inhumane levels of overcrowding in family detention centers.
GEO Group is currently testing ankle monitors for pilot participants. Carolina Menjivar, a Honduran asylum applicant recently fitted for one of these ankle monitor, is not a fan. “It makes me ashamed, because they only put them on criminals, and I’m not a criminal yet. It’s also uncomfortable. I don’t even know if I can pull my pants on over this thing.”
Jonathan Ryan, director of San Antonio’s RAICES (a nonprofit dedicated to serving the undocumented) criticized the move to ankle monitors in the program as a means to criminalize asylum seekers. “It’s a continuous, pervasive pressure that is being put on these women, constantly reminding them that they are not welcome here.”
GEO Group has not commented publically, and deferred all media questions to ICE.