July 13, 2020

Migrant detention center operators defend response to COVID-19 in facilities

PHOENIX – The head of the private company that runs a migrant detention center in Eloy told a House panel Monday he is “immensely proud” of its operations, even as lawmakers questioned its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger was one of four private contractors who testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee Monday on their operation of detention facilities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement – contracts that are worth billions, committee Democrats noted.

Throughout the roughly three-hour virtual hearing, the contractors insisted that conditions in the detention centers are “safe” for both detainees and employees and that they are following health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Since the pandemic began we have worked quickly to execute the guidance of the CDC and our partners,” Hininger testified. “I believe the practices and the measures CoreCivic has implemented in our facilities have prevented further transmission of COVID-19.”

But most committee members appeared skeptical.

“It is clear that ICE and its contractors have not taken this outbreak seriously and have not treated it aggressively enough,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-New York, the chairwoman of the subcommittee.

By:  Farah Eltohamy