Serco Inc., a company proposing to manage a family detention center under the umbrella of the county, was bombarded with opposition Thursday during a public hearing.
Social worker Mariah Boone, held a poster that read – Putting kids in prison is child abuse.
“I'm here to speak in opposition of holding mothers and children in detention, which is clearly abusive,” she said.
Jamilia Tigger on behalf of a company that provides legal services to detained immigrants also was against the facility.
“The Jim Wells County community will suffer, Serco will abandon the community when it becomes too illegal or too expensive or too difficult to maintain their investment...” she said. “No community should base their job ventures...that requires human suffering for their success.”
A licensed social worker spoke on her experience at a detention center.
“I understand jobs are important, but people have to sleep at night and have to have a conscience,” Dr. Olivia Lopez said who was a former employee at another Texas detention center. “The food quality is poor, there's sexual abuse, falsification of records to advert any auditing, coercive tactics and suicide attempts and death. That's pretty heavy for 200 jobs.”
The facility, if approved by Jim Wells County commissioners, would be located in the city limits of San Diego at the former La Hacienda nursing home off Highway 44.
About 60 people attended the public hearing at the Women's Building at the county fairgrounds.
Questions on legalities, medical and education were brought up and about a dozen people spoke on their concerns with the facility.
Representatives of Serco time and time again assured those in attendance no cost would be incurred by the county. They mentioned the benefits for the county as the administrative coordinator through Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) would earn the county about $90,000 to $100,000 annually.
With the oil bust and companies that have moved out of Jim Wells County, jobs are scarce.
“Right now 200 jobs would be a good thing and I'm thankful we are having this public forum,” said San Diego Superintendent Sam Bueno.
Bueno asked Serco representatives if the children would be attending San Diego schools if the facility opened. Serco said all schooling would be in-house.
After hearing horror stories of abuse and neglect in other Texas facilities, one commissioner expressed her view.
“We are not here to be part of anything inhumane,” Commissioner Margie Gonzalez said.