Federal agency closing illegal immigration facility in Texas 

National News

By Jack Phillips 
Contributing Writer 

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday confirmed it will shut down a facility used by federal immigration officials in Texas to house individuals who were detained after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In a news release, the agency said it “continually reviews the overall detention capacity and in doing so, takes action to close certain facilities that no longer provide a sufficient return on investment.” 

And that “includes closing the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, which is the most expensive facility in the national detention network,” the agency said. “Closing this facility will enable ICE to reallocate funding to increase the overall detention bed capacity across the system by an estimated 1,600 beds to better support operational needs.” 

The additional space “is being pursued across the country and is expected to be available immediately,” the news release said.  

“Today’s announcement will provide an overall increase in bedspace and operate at or above the [fiscal year 2024] appropriated 41,500 minimum bed requirement while maximizing removal flights,” ICE Deputy Director Patrick Lechleitner said in the release. 

The South Texas Family Residential Center, according to ICE, is used to maintain “civil detention standards with specific attention paid to meet the needs of family groups,” while a CBS News video published in 2018 showed that the facility primarily houses women and children who were detained after making an illegal crossing. 

“As with the other ICE family residential centers, STFRC respects the dignity and humanity of families awaiting the outcome of immigration hearings or pending return to home country. Individuals can roam freely throughout the facility to playrooms, snack areas with continually restocked refrigerators, libraries, exercise rooms, lobbies, etc.,” says an archived 2019 ICE webpage, which added at the time that there are also classrooms available for children there. 

In February 2024, ICE said that the South Texas Family Residential Center was “transitioned to detain noncriminal single adult females and certain noncriminal males classified as low risk.” 

The move comes as President Joe Biden earlier this month issued an executive order that broadly bans individuals who were caught illegally crossing the Southern Border from claiming asylum, a major enforcement crackdown ahead of the 2024 presidential election. 

Those who are caught crossing illegally could be quickly deported or turned back to Mexico under the measure, which went into effect just hours after it was signed. There will be exceptions for unaccompanied children, people who face serious medical or safety threats, and victims of trafficking, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said. 

“This action will help us gain control of our border and restore order into the process,” the president said in a June 4 news conference announcing the measure. “This ban will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level that our system can effectively manage.” 

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization intended to sue over the new restrictions. The group and other immigrant advocacy organizations contend the ban is draconian and is backtracking on U.S. legal obligations to asylum seekers. 

Republicans also criticized the move as politically motivated and insufficient to deal with the recent, historic increase in illegal immigration. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose agency encompasses ICE, told ABC News on Sunday that the Biden administration is prepared to deal with a range of lawsuits filed in the wake of the ban, including one from the ACLU. 

“I respectfully disagree with the ACLU,” he told the outlet. “We stand by the legality of what we have done. We stand by the value proposition. It’s not only a matter of securing the border, we have a humanitarian obligation to keep vulnerable people out of the hands of exploitative smugglers.” 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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