White House Considers Ending for-Profit Immigrant Detainee Centers

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The South Texas Family Residential Center, the largest of the nation's three immigration detention centers for families, housing up to 2,400, is operated by a private company. (Credit: Molly Hennessey-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

The Obama administration is considering an end to the practice of keeping immigrant detainees in for-profit centers, weeks after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would stop its use of private prisons.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the immigration service and the Border Patrol, in late August ordered a review of ways to end the use of the private facilities.

A decision to do so would mark a major victory for the coalition of civil rights groups and immigrant advocacy organizations that has sought to roll back the growth of the private-prison industry. Immigration detention facilities house far more detainees than the private facilities the federal prison system has used.

But immigration officials have pushed back against the idea, arguing that they have no cost-effective alternative to the private facilities and that other choices could be worse.

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