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Louisiana corrections industry is profiting from ICE contracts while asylum seeker dies

Roylan Hernandez Diaz died in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail in Monroe, LA, Tuesday. He was a 43-year old asylum seeker from Cuba who, according to ICE, died by an apparent suicide at the Richwood Correctional Center.

Louisiana was long known as the world’s prison capital until just barely it fell to second place behind Oklahoma in 2018. (Oklahoma’s incarceration rate was 1,079 people per 100,000 compared to 1,052 per 100,000 for Louisiana.) Louisiana also now holds second place (behind only Texas) when it comes to states holding ICE detainees with 6,500 immigrants in detention. Many in the corrections and law enforcement industry see deals with ICE to house immigrants as a great financial opportunity. While the Department of Corrections reimburses Sheriffs $24.39 per day for most prisoners, ICE pays an average of $65 (or 266%) a day per detainee. Where they would have had to “pinch budgets” because they “built jails on the promise of an endless supply of state inmates“, they are getting what they see as relief via ICE agreements to detain thousands of immigrants..

On the increase brought by these deals, Sheriff Jordan Cranford of Winn Parish said, “The employees were originally making $10 an hour, and with us holding ICE detainees. $10 went to $18.44 an hour. This money is going back into our community.

These deals are also surely contributing to pockets at LaSalle Corrections, the the Ruston-based private prison firm that operates several ICE detention facilities – including Richwood Correctional Center where Roylan Hernandez Diaz just died in their care. LaSalle Corrections has been able to expand its immigration detention holdings because ICE ignored Congress’s February instructions reduce its detention population. Instead, ICE has expanded the population in detention to 13,000 more people than the target set by Congress.

Meanwhile, people flee uncertain or dangerous situations in their home countries only to face the uncertainty and danger of our hostile immigration system in the hope of freedom. A doctor who, like Hernandez Diaz, also fled Cuba sought asylum in the U.S. after being detained and beaten by state officials in Cuba. According to NBC News:

He presented himself at the Laredo, Texas, port of entry and asked for asylum. From there he was transferred to facilities in Texas and Louisiana before winding up at the Adams County Correctional Center. He was denied asylum in May, then applied for parole, citing his sister’s status as a citizen and his profession as a doctor as proof that he wasn’t a flight risk or a danger. ICE denied that request, which means he will remain in ICE custody for the duration of his appeals.

Ice detentions surge in Mississippi, Louisiana, alarming immigration advocates

His sister said they came here looking for freedom but we don’t even have freedom. As people get sick and die in detention, are shuffled from one facility to another, and are held away from access to legal representation, we should refrain from celebrating their imprisonment and suffering as a financial boon for the community. We have a duty to reclaim humanity so fiercely that we don’t find joy in ICE, prisons, or prison contracts and no more Roylan Hernandez Diaz’s are detained or erased.

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Joi Chadwick

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