and Mexico. Each woman interviewed said she wanted the same thing: permission to live and work in the United States. “We would be happy to have one-tenth of what an American family has,” Garza said. Only a young Salvadoran woman refused to be interviewed. She was afraid, she said, of eventual reprisals in her country . Described by Interim Director Ernie Godsey as a “correction man’s dream” the Laredo Processing Center is a simple, stressed-concrete building that projects the institutional personality of a small corporation. Situated south of Laredo on State Highway 59, where car dealerships give way to scrub brush and Palo Verde trees, it looks very much like a modern food processing center. Inside, INS detainees are housed for $23.00 per day by the Tennessee-based company that Newsweek recently described as the operator of “safe, orderly” prisons. The detention center is orderly and, for most detained there, entirely safe. But the company currently faces a lawsuit in a federal court that suggests a different side to Corrections Corporation of America’s clean, welllighted image. And some detainees are telling of terrifying events taking place at the center. In December, 17-year-old Jose Vidal scaled the 14-foot security fence and disappeared into a dusty Chacon Creek bed west of the building. He had, he claimed, been beaten by Juan Garcia, at the time of the alleged assault was assigned to another area of the building. Vidal returned the same day, his arms lacerated by the razor-wire atop the fence, and turned himself in. Patrick Hughes, an attorney who has provided legal services for Laredo detainees, filed a complaint and Vidal’s case is currently under investigation. Vidal is being held without bond because he is considered an escape risk. A witness to the incident claims in an affidavit that the guard became angry when Vidal asked if he could put his belongings back under the Diana Claitor is an Austin freelance writer. Names of some of the subjects in this article .were changed to protect their identities. bed after a routine search: “He grabbed Josd Vidal by the throat and threw him against the wall, then to the floor, stepping on his chest.” Another witness claimed also in an affidavit that the same guard continued to beat Vidal after he was handcuffed. Emilio Saenz, the INS deportation officer assigned to the CCA facility, said he believed that the incident warranted an investigation. After conducting an in-house investigation, Saenz forwarded his findings to the INS district office at San Antonio. An agency inspector has been assigned to the case. The Vidal case has resulted in a series of exchanges between Hughes, of Laredo Refugee Legal Services, and CCA’s corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Richard Crane, CCA Vice-President for Legal Affairs at Nashville, said in a telephone interview that a thorough company investigation is underway. He has requested, from Hughes, names and addresses of witnesses to the alleged attack. Crane insists that the company responded promptly and appropriately to the Vidal incident. “We’re conducting an investigation and the guard involved in the incident is no longer employed by CCA,” Crane said. He is, according to the director of the Laredo Center, suspended without pay for a reason unrelated to the incident. Crane observed that anytime men are placed in positions of authority in detention facilities there is potential for abuse. The company, he said, will not tolerate abuse of detainees, and has policies for responding quickly when employees violate detainees’ rights. The last thing the company wants is adverse publicity, particularly in Texas where they have submitted bids to build four 500-bed facilities for the state. “We have nothing to gain from it,” Crane said of abuse of detainees, “and everything to lose.” But Hughes insists that physical and psychological abuse is common in the detention center. Some of the guards, he claims, constantly threaten and intimidate detainees. Several of the detainees interviewed support Hughes’s claims. “Marcos,” a 16-year-old Nicaraguan boy who was in the center for the second time in six months \(before he was again returned to Nicaragua in everyone in the adolescent boys’ dorm had been required, for several days, to sit in chairs without talking or moving. All were being punished because someone threw a lighted match into a waste was described by Carlos Joya-Sarvina in an affidavit prepared by Leslie Johnson, an attorney who has worked for Refugee Legal Services. Child detainees, Joya-Sarvina said, were restricted to their chairs and only permitted to walk to the bathroom if a guard consented. He also described an assault by the dismissed guard on a 15-yearold Guatemalan boy called Noe who requested voluntary departure after the incident. And, according to Marcos and Vidal, both of whom were interviewed in July, verbal abuse continues. “Siempre nos dicen ‘fuck you’ o ‘you son-of-bitch,’ ” Marcos said of the guards. \(“They always tells us fuck you an interview, Marcos observed that discipline in the facility is presently less severe and perhaps more predictable than it was when he was detained here six months ago. ANNA MARIA PORTILLO is a detainee who, according to Los Angeles attorney Carlos Holguin, presented no problems to the staff of the Laredo Processing Center when she was taken into custody in May of 1985. Portillo, until recently, was a plaintiff in a California lawsuit asking damages for repeated strip-searches to which she was forced to submit while incarcerated in the Laredo facility in spring of 1985. Portillo was one of four adolescent plaintiffs represented by Holguin, an attorney for the National Center for Immigrant’s Rights. Working with him are attorneys from the California American Liberties Union and the National Center for Youth Rights in San Francisco. Portillo, who was 16 when detained, allegedly was forced by a female guard to submit to a cavity-search after a routine visit with her attorney. According to Portillo, a female guard took her to the restroom and insisted that she undress. “I never had my clothes off in front of an adult,” Portillo said when interviewed. She requested that the guard allow her to leave her underclothing on but was told she had no choice. “She made me bend over and looked at my private parts. She told me to bend over and open my legs. I did not know what they were going to do to me in that bathroom. Then, when she finished and I was dressed, she told me that they were going to do it again.” In Jail In Laredo Illegal Immigrants Meet the Corrections Corp. of America 8 AUGUST 14, 1987
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