ALVARADO, Texas — Some activists are asking questions about a new detention center in North Texas that is slated to house about 700 immigrants, including three dozen transgender individuals.
The Prairieland Detention Center is a sprawling facility featuring 14-foot-tall fences and a specially designed wing for transgender individuals, the Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/2dXMLid ) reports.
The facility is in and owned by Alvarado, a small city about 40 miles south of Dallas, though it is managed by Emerald Correctional Management LLC, a privately held Louisiana-based detention company.
A center official says detained immigrants could arrive this month, though a U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement official said the center will more likely open in January.
Advocates for transgender rights are cautious about the unique wing at the facility. Nell Gaither, founder of the Dallas-based Trans Pride Initiative, wants to ensure that Prairieland has enough security provisions to keep transgender immigrants from being abused and assaulted.
“Our preference is that they not hold any trans or queer persons,” said Gaither, who along with other activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights have met with ICE in Dallas to work on these issues.
Emerald Correctional Management CEO Steve Afeman said special security measures will be in place for the transgender population, including a separate dorm with electronic monitoring by cameras and direct supervision.
The company has a contract that guarantees it will receive $89.25 per day for each of a minimum of 525 beds, even if those beds aren’t filled. At that rate, the revenue stream would be $17.1 million over one year.
“It is a guaranteed minimum revenue stream,” Afeman said. “Otherwise, how would you get a $60 million facility custom-built?”
Jeh C. Johnson, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has called for a review of contracts allowing private corporations to run immigration detention centers.
However, Afeman said he doubts that contracts for immigrant detention centers are under threat. There are currently no other place to house so many people awaiting legal proceedings or deportation.
Prairieland was financed with nearly $64 million in revenue bonds issued through the Prairieland Public Facilities Corp., which was set up by the city of Alvarado. Alvarado owns the facility, while Emerald is the operator, Afeman said.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com