The place was quiet, well-lit, clean and orderly. Some of the detainees appeared resigned to their fate and somber, though several offered a friendly hello in Spanish as strangers passed.
Before it was time for them to go outside for recreation, the women detainees cooperated as authorities frisked them. When the women got outside, they huddled together, chatting quietly. Inside, the men stared blankly at television sets in their pods. The low energy in the building was palpable.
As many as 36 may share the same common living area, called a pod. They can use telephones and a law library. They also have access to a doctor and a dentist.
From the center, the detainees can be transported to the Atlanta or Columbus airports and flown back to their own countries at taxpayer cost. Those who wish to appear before an immigration judge may be transferred to detention centers in Ocilla or Lumpkin, which have courtrooms.
Last year, scores of civil and immigrant rights groups called on President Barack Obama to shut down the detention centers in Irwin and Stewart counties. They complained the two centers are located in isolated corners of the state far from immigrants’ families and attorneys.
“There is so much to be concerned about,” said Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch, which watchdogs immigration detention centers, “when we trust so much of what should be public responsibility to the private sphere.”
©2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
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PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): IMMIGRATION-DETENTION