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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