Mayorkas also directed ICE to “as soon as possible” sever its contracts with the Irwin County Detention Center in rural Georgia, a more complicated endeavor because the facility is county-owned but run by a private contractor.
Federal officials chose the two facilities mainly because their detention rosters have shrunk and they are “no longer operationally necessary,” said a Department of Homeland Security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s deliberations. Bristol is holding seven detainees out of nearly 200 beds; Irwin has 114 detainees out of almost 1,000 beds.
Both county jails are also under federal investigation for complaints of abuses against immigrants — allegations that remain open and unresolved — and those factored into Mayorkas’s decision, the official said.
In a memo to ICE directing the changes, Mayorkas said his “foundational principle” is that “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “This marks an important first step to realizing that goal. 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.”