Things That Matter

Migrants At This ICE Detention Center Are Being ‘Looked After’ By An Alleged Neo-Nazi And This Sets Off All The Alarm Bells

Much has been discussed (but never enough, of course!) about how ICE is hiring for-profit corporations to run its detention facilities. These facilities have been witness, according to activist organizations and detainees themselves, to horrific acts of abuse and negligence. Those housed in ICE detention centers often see their mental and physical health deteriorate. Suicides are common, as are fatal and near-fatal complications product of medical mishandling. Anyone in their right mind would ask how this is possible. Aren’t migrants and refugees being cared for by other human beings who should have at least a minimum level of empathy?

It would be irresponsible to generalize and imply that all personnel at detention centers lack compassion, but a recent VICE investigation reveals that there is something seriously wrong with at least one individual who holds a senior position in a detention facility in Nevada, and who has previously worked in government prisons. 

Travis Frey, a captain at a for-profit detention center has posted in a Neo-Nazi website, where he said that “Deep down, no one really gives a shit about racism.” 

Credit: USDHS

The 31-year-old man is a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by CoreCivic, a highly profitable company contracted by ICE to house undocumented migrants. The fact that someone with a white nationalist agenda is in charge of guaranteeing the safety of undocumented migrants, most of whom are non-white, is troubling. VICE also revealed that Frey sought to establish a white nationalist chapter in his area. He served in the Marines between 2006 and 2008. 

Frey joined the Neo-Nazi website Iron March in 2013 and posted at least a dozen times.

When he posted the bulk of his messages on Iron March between 2016 and 2017, Frey was working at a CoreCivic run prison in Indianapolis. This facility was also authorized to house ICE detainees. The site has been shut down, but its content was leaked in November.

Iron March was fertile ground for far-right ideology and bigotry, as VICE reports: “The foundations of violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen were established in Iron March chats, and white nationalist leaders like Matthew Heimbach have said they were radicalized by the time they spent on the site.”

Frey also expressed his wish to get like-minded fascists in Indiana together, which amounts to basically opening a chapter of white nationalists. He wrote in Iron March: “I’m trying to find all the NS [National Socialist] guys in Indiana to get together for a meet and greet.”

Frey used the screen name “In Hoc Signo Vinces”: there literally is a fascist looking after Brown and Black migrants.

Through some personal details posted on the site, including his phone number and email, VICE was able to identify Frey. His Latin username means “In this sign thou shalt conquer” and is used by the military around the world. Interestingly, it was also the title of the American Nazi Party’s manifesto, which is quite revealing when it comes to figuring out Frey’s politics. He posted virulent messages such as: “any ‘man’ who gets that upset about ‘virulent racism’ couldn’t knock out a tooth even if I tied my hands behind my back.”

He also spit out some conspiracy theories, of course, and people on Twitter are questioning how he ended up in this job in the first place.

Other things he said included “heads of world governments and the entertainment industry are under Satanic influences” and “Dark, dark shit goes on in the corridors of power and these rats need to be purged from their nests”. Frey self-proclaimed as a fascist, by the way. VICE tried contacting him but he hung up on them and CoreCivic has not responded to the allegations. Frey has also deactivated his LinkedIn account. 

And others are very upset at how ICE detention centers seem to attract the worst.

There will be a lot of PR work ahead for both CoreCivic and ICE as they try to explain how and why Frey got his job. Are there screening mechanisms in place? Is an officer’s past online presence scrutinized? All of these questions will eventually need some answers.

Racism seems to be an ever-present problem in the corrections industry. Prisons themselves are micro social systems highly defined by race relations. Based on ethnicity, Black and Brown populations are still the biggest in the United States correctional system, and migrant detention facilities are overwhelmingly occupied by people of color.

Revelations such as Frey’s past (it is unclear whether he still holds these beliefs) reveal the vulnerable position in which these populations live. Having guards who may have a racial bias can certainly put detainees at risk of being abused.

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Biden Administration Says Number Of Kids In Border Custody Drops 84% Over Last Month

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Biden Administration Says Number Of Kids In Border Custody Drops 84% Over Last Month

John Moore/Getty Images

As recently as last month more than 5,000 children languished in jail-like conditions inside U.S. Border Patrol facilities, often for longer than the 72-hour limit set by federal law. But, according to the Biden administration, that number has dropped by 84% as the agencies charged with migrant detention make significant progress.

Questions remain, however, about where these children are being sent to instead and why there remains a need for jail-like conditions in the first place.

The number of kids in jail-like Border Patrol facilities drops 84% compared to March.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in jail-like conditions by US Customs and Border Protection dropped nearly 84% in the span of a month, according to a White House official. As of last Wednesday, there were 954 children in CBP facilities, down from a peak of 5,767 on March 28, the official told CNN.

The average time that kids are in CBP custody is now 28 hours, compared to 133 hours on March 28, the official said, a nearly 80% reduction in time spent in Border Patrol detention.

In an interview with NBC News this week, Biden suggested that the situation with unaccompanied children is now under control, saying, “It’s way down now. We’ve now gotten control,” and touted “significant change in the circumstances for children to and at the border.”

In recent weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care of migrant children, has opened up a string of temporary shelters to accommodate minors. That’s allowed for an increasing number of children being transferred out of border facilities to spaces equipped to care for them at a quicker pace.

The drop in children in custody is a welcome sign given the conditions they faced.

In some cases, children were alternating schedules to make space for one another in confined facilities and taking turns showering, often going days without one, while others hadn’t seen the sunlight in days.

While the administration works to address root causes of migration, it’s also had to contend with growing numbers of children in government custody. As of April 27, there were more than 22,276 children in HHS care, according to government data.

Biden on NBC again warned Central American parents against sending children to the US.”Do not send your kids, period. They’re most — they’re in jeopardy going– making that thousand-mile trek,” Biden said. “And so what we’re doing now is we’re going back to those countries in question where most of it’s coming from and saying, ‘Look, you can apply from your country. You don’t have to make this trek.”

The shift in strategy comes as a new poll shows Americans overwhelmingly support new immigration policy.

A vast majority of Americans approve of the idea of engaging countries abroad to address the causes of migration before it happens, according to a new nationwide poll released Thursday.

Pollster Civiqs found that 85 percent of survey respondents agreed that the United States needs to engage with other countries to address migration patterns.

On a partisan basis, 86 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans, as well as 81 percent of independents, agree with that approach, according to Civiqs, which conducted the poll for Immigration Hub, a progressive immigration advocacy group.

The poll found that 57 percent of Americans accept illegal immigration when the immigrants are fleeing violence in their home countries.

That support is lower for undocumented immigrants who come for other reasons; 46 percent agree with immigrants arriving illegally to escape poverty or hunger, while 36 percent do if the migrants are seeking to reunite with family members, and 31 percent do if the migrants are looking for jobs in the United States.

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Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

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Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

John Moore/Getty Images

For years now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been enforcing cruel and, in many opinions, illegal immigration policies that have affected the most vulnerable among us. And they’ve been doing it without a permanent leader who can be held accountable.

The Trump administration relied on interim leaders and deputy secretaries to head the sprawling and powerful agency. Now, President Biden has nominated a frequent outspoken Trump critic to lead the agency and many are hopeful there could be real change.

The White House has nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE.

President Joe Biden has nominated a Texas sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, to lead ICE. Gonzalez has been the sheriff of Harris County (parts of Houston, TX) since 2017, leading the state’s largest sheriffs department. He has led a team of 5,000 employees in the position and previously served 18 years with the Houston Police Department, rising to the rank of sergeant, according to his profile on his office’s website.

Gonzalez has also been a vocal critic of elements of former President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.

Gonzalez is the second such critic to be selected by Biden for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, following the nomination two weeks ago of Tucson, AZ., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Gonzalez has long been a voice of reason within law enforcement leading many to be hopeful for change.

During his first term as sheriff Gonzalez ended a program with ICE that trained 10 Harris County deputies to determine the immigration status of prisoners, and hold for deportation those in the country illegally.

As sheriff he also opposed Texas legislation requiring local law enforcement to determine individuals’ immigration status, according to The Texas Tribune. The legislation was viewed as targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Gonzalez, like many in law enforcement, said the approach would destroy trust and make their job protecting communities more difficult.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised Biden’s pick in a statement Tuesday.

“Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE Director,” Mayorkas said. “With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission. I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”

ICE has long been missing a permanent director to lead the agency.

Gonzales would succeed Tae Johnson, who has been serving as acting ICE director since Jan. 13. He previously served as the agency’s deputy director.

ICE has not had a permanent director since 2017. The agency operated with five acting directors under the Trump administration. This comes as the Biden administration has faced challenges at the border, including a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S.

The announcement of Gonzalez’s nomination comes on the heels of another major announcement from DHS. Mayorkas also announced Tuesday that he has directed ICE and Customs and Border Protection to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses.

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