British company Serco has been lobbying hectically for the past year, trying to bag the contract for opening a detention center for immigrants near the Mexican
Online PR News – 14-June-2016 – Wilmington – British company Serco has been lobbying hectically for the past year, trying to bag the contract for opening a detention center for immigrants near the Mexican border. Serco, the British outsourcing company has its headquarters in Hook, Hampshire, UK. Founded in 1929, it used to be called RCA services Limited and was serving the cinema industry. Serco is in the business of operating public and private transport, traffic control and aviation. In the UK Serco is the official supplier of electronic tagging devices that are fitted on offenders and asylum seekers. The company also runs several prisons and an institution for young offenders and a Secure Training Center as well. No wonder then that the company is frantically trying to bag the contract for opening a detention center at the Mexican border, what with thousands of illegal immigrants trying to cross over every day. Not that this billion-dollar has been given a clean chit by the British government. On the contrary, it is mired in controversy with a host of immigration detention center sandals in home country UK and in Australia as well. However, Serco has been relentlessly lobbying public officials located in a tiny county near Texas, close to the Mexican border. The company has been at it for over a year now although they have been drawing a lot of flak from immigrant rights groups.The current proposal from the company is the conversion of a shuttered nursing home in Jim Wells County, Texas into a family detention center. With a capacity to hold 600 inmates, this one will join the existing two family detention centers that are already functioning under private management. The Obama administration is using private detention centers for detaining women and children, which is a cause for concern with most folks attempting to cross the border. Biding their time, the Serco representatives sent feelers to the government officials last in April 2016 after which there was an open pitching invitation that the USCIS announced. After hectic parlaying behind closed doors, Serco lobbyists and the government officials (five of the county’s commissioners) came to an understanding and passed a resolution to partner with Serco and decided to forward their decision to USCIS. Serco is indeed lobbying heavily, and has gone ahead and hired a former USCIS staff member Kate Mills. Recently a job opening was posted for recruiting communications and logistics staff member anticipating that the company is going to bag the contract. The information furnished by Judge Pedro Trevino Jr. who is the presiding member of the Jim Wells commissioners’ court indicated that Serco is all set to provide over 200 jobs to locals at the proposed center. The small county that boasts a population of 40,000 residents is suffering from acute unemployment due to the decline in the activities of the oil and natural gas industry that is undergoing a slump. As a result the poverty rate has jumped sharply to 20% with no respite in sight. Judge Trevino is of the opinion that the people are eager to know when the center will become operational and are keen to know the number of jobs it will create in their neighborhood. A group of the county’s attorneys were already researching the proposal, though they are a bit worried about the controversy it could kick up in the future. It is not that they don’t know that family detention centers are full of controversies and would like to have everything above board before they get to make a final decision on the call. The USCIS have opened an information center that is busy collecting data after conducting market research. However, the government is yet to decide whether it will entertain formal proposals from contractors who specialize in setting up family detention centers. As there are several formalities that have to be considered, it is going to be quite some time before a decision is made regarding the request for proposals for setting up the detention centers are finalized. For instance, last April alone there were over 38,000 illegal immigrants who were apprehended while trying to cross the U.S. - Mexico border, of which there were nearly 10,000 children who ventured on their own without any family member accompanying them. There were also several family units that had entire families trying to slip across the border according to the US Customs and Border Patrol officers. This is probably the highest recorded number after the unexpected surge of illegal immigrants who tried to cross over during June 2014, and is going to prove to be very difficult to manage by the authorities, given the limited resources at their command. There is reliable information that indicates that the Obama administration is planning to carry out systematic raids on illegal immigrants. This can result only in large scale detentions and deportations where many Central American mothers along with their children will be asked to leave and go back to the countries of their origin. Serco has enough experience in maintaining and successfully running detention centers. The company has been maintaining and running the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Center in Britain since the year 2007, though there have been several scandals relating to allegations of abuse. There have been reports about women inmates being sexually harassed and even assaulted by members of the staff at the detention center. Serco also has some operations in Australia, where all the mainland immigration detention facilities are operated by the company which has a multi-billion dollar contract with the government of Australia. Severe riots were reported from the centers located in Christmas Island where dozens of detainees inflicted injuries on themselves, and there were also allegations of sexual assault on some detainees. According to Mohammad Abdollahi, director of advocacy for the Refugee and Immigrant Center, a not-for profit group based in Texas, Serco projects itself quite differently in the U.S. In reality, they have a track record that does not speak very highly of the company, and they have been handling family detainees in a manner that is not so desirable. Serco claims that it has global exposure and extensive experience in maintaining and running family detention centers. The officials claim that they have a firm commitment to taking care of all those put in their care, and will always trust and respect the detainees under their custody. One of the U.S. spokespersons for Serco confirmed this in an email statement, confirming the company’s presence in Jim Wells County. Serco’s family detention center will be the first of its kind in the U.S. would be the first of its kind in the country. It is to join the club that comprises two other centers in operation in South Texas. One is the 679-bed family detention residential center located in Karnes County run by the Geo Group and the other is the Corrections Corporation of America which runs the 2,400-bed Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. The only other family center located outside the state is the 96-bed family detention center in Pennsylvania, which is operated by Berks County through an agreement with USCIS. The sad fact is that almost all the women and children lodged at all the three facilities wish to obtain refugee status and asylum, given the fluid situation that has arisen due to the crisis brewing in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where they can never go back and live in peace. Another organization operating a pilot “alternative to detention” program, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services has come out with the observation that it is better to house the illegal immigrants in a less restrictive manner, so that it is easier for them to attend the frequent immigration court hearings. The people seeking asylum in the United States are a sad lot and it is imperative for them to complete the process as soon as possible. They are probably looking forward to a new life here in the United States says Brittney Nystrom, the director for advocacy of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and tormenting them by detaining them at the family detention centers is certainly not the way to help them achieve this.