For immediate release: September 26, 2022
Contact: No Detention Centers in Michigan, NoDetentionCentersMI@gmail.com
Baldwin, MI – Today, over 50 organizations from around the state of Michigan and the country sent an open letter to President Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Senator Gary Peters calling for an end to the expansion of immigration detention and for the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin to remain closed. This letter follows a recent proposal from Michigan Representatives Bill Huizenga and John Moolenaar to repurpose the facility as an ICE detention center.
“We are deeply troubled by this proposal,” the letter states, “because it follows a recent pattern of actions from the Biden administration contravening its stated goal of ending the use of private facilities for detention, because we know that ICE operates a system of abusive and inhumane detention centers across the country, and because the presence of this prison in Baldwin has been disastrous for decades.”
Drafted by the No Detention Centers in Michigan coalition, the letter details the troubled history of the Baldwin facility, currently due to close on September 30th, and the recent national trends that point to the possibility of its reopening with an ICE contract. The signatories include over 20 groups based in Michigan and over 30 nationally active organizations focusing on immigration and racial justice.
North Lake, a private prison owned and managed by the Florida-based GEO Group, has closed and reopened multiple times since its construction in 1999. In its most recent incarnation, from October 2019 through September 2022, the facility contracted with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to hold non-U.S. citizens convicted of federal crimes.
In keeping with the history of immigrant-only prisons run by the GEO Group, this period of less than two years has seen numerous accounts of inhumane conditions, medical neglect, and violent mistreatment endemic to the immigration detention system. Six documented hunger strikes took place at North Lake over the course of 2020, primarily led by Black immigrants demanding medical care, better food, and an end to discriminatory confinement in the Restricted Housing Unit. In May 2020, more than 45 relatives and loved ones of people incarcerated at North Lake signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons, demanding increased transparency and a recognition of the GEO Group’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Biden administration issued an executive order in January 2021 purporting to end the federal government’s use of private prisons, setting the stage for the facility’s closure later this month. But immigrant advocates have pointed to a pattern of similar facilities ending their BOP contracts only to reopen as detention centers, while the number of immigrants held in ICE custody has continued to rise since President Biden took office, despite campaign promises to curtail detention. Eighty percent of the immigrants detained by ICE are held at facilities run by private companies. In June, Michigan Representatives Bill Huizenga and John Moolenaar publicly requested that North Lake be converted into a detention center.
“In calling for an ICE contract to bail out the GEO Group in Michigan yet again,” the letter from NDCM affirms, “Huizenga and Moolenaar seek to capitalize on the human misery caused by the organized abandonment and exploitation of working people both within the United States and beyond its borders. […] We refuse to let ICE and GEO expand their violence further into Michigan, and we call on the Biden administration to extend Executive Order 14006 to explicitly prohibit the use of private facilities for immigration detention as a first step toward phasing out all ICE detention.”
“This prison has already caused enormous suffering and has never fulfilled GEO’s promises to the people of Lake County,” said Oscar Castañeda, a member of No Detention Centers in Michigan. “Now the federal prison contract is finally ending, but we’ve seen that GEO will exploit any opportunity to make a profit. When it comes to the immigrant detention system, the Biden administration has not kept its word. We’re not going to let ICE expand here without a fight. We want to make sure that the loopholes allowing for the expansion of detention are closed and that this time, North Lake stays shut down for good.”
No Detention Centers in Michigan is a statewide coalition building power through collective action to abolish immigration detention and migrant incarceration in Michigan and beyond.