UPDATE: ICE drops more than 90 immigrants at Natchez bus station
Published 7:41 pm Friday, July 16, 2021
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected in order to clarify that, while some detainees are given money upon release, that money does not come from ICE or the private prison facility, say activists who work with released detainees. Rather, any money comes from funds the detainee’s family members may have sent to the facility to help the detainee.
Also, activists here have responded to say the Core Civic-operated Adams County Correctional Facility has taken part in releasing immigrant detainees, leaving in bus stations and other locations.
NATCHEZ — On Wednesday, personnel at the Natchez Transit System on Wood Avenue became overwhelmed during the third day of having immigrants, most of whom did not speak English, simply dropped at the bus station.
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In three days, a total of more than 90 immigrants went through the same ordeal.
They began arriving on Monday. The immigrants had been previously detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and were ordered released.
Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said workers at the bus station reached out for help when it continued to happen on the third day.
Patten emphasized these immigrants were not being held and had not been released from the Core Civic-operated Adams County Correctional Facility.
“I can tell you that what happened this week was not the norm. That was not normal procedure,” Patten said. “They (Adams County Correctional Facility) release these guys and give them $300 to get to wherever they are going, whether by bus, cab or plane. And they have to have some kind of relative’s address they are going to. They have a travel plan. That was not the case this week.”
Activists who work with released detainees said no money given to the detainees upon release comes from ICE or the private prison facility. Rather, any money provided to detainees comes from funds the detainee’s family members may have sent to the facility to help the detainee.
Also, activists here have responded to say the Core Civic-operated Adams County Correctional Facility has taken part in releasing immigrant detainees, leaving in bus stations and other locations without any plans for travel.
Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson added the Core Civic facility in Adams County also does not release any inmate or detainee without a clear COVID-19 test.
When the bus station workers couldn’t handle the situation because of the language barrier, they called for help.
“There was no fight, no struggle, no scuffle. They just couldn’t communicate. And these people weren’t just speaking Spanish. They were speaking all kinds of languages. It’s like someone looked at a map and found the nearest bus station and just dropped them here,” Patten said. “Myself, the mayor, Chief Daughtry, Sheriff Hedrick, two county supervisors — we were all there.”
He said he and the other officials began making phone calls to try to find out who had deposited the immigrants in Natchez, including calling various U.S. Consulates in New Orleans to try to find out what was going on.
Gibson said, “Within the course of just a few hours, we reached out to so many people and got great results.”
Gibson thanks Patten, Daughtry and Concordia Parish Sheriff David Hedrick for their work. Hedrick was able to track the detainees to the River Correctional Facility in Ferriday, Louisiana, a private facility, Gibson said.
Looking on a map and finding the nearest bus station was exactly how the detainees wound up in Natchez.
“ICE, working from their main office, ordered the release of these detainees. They simply Googled the nearest bus station and the Natchez Transit System popped up and that is where they sent them,” Gibson said. “I have not been able to get a complete count, but it was something like 90 to 100, and they were planning to send 70 more the next day.”
Gibson said the detainees “could not have been nicer to work with. They were all so kind. We were able to get protocols in place and had everyone on buses or vans, mainly to Alexandria, Louisiana, or New Orleans. Most had ample funds for bus tickets and we have volunteers in our community who stepped up to help those who did not.
“What could have been a very bad day ended up being a good day. Sheriff Patten and Sheriff Hedrick assisted us in getting in touch with ICE and got their assurance they would not perform such an act again without proper notice and proper organization of everyone involved.”
Gibson was critical of how the immigrants were released by ICE, saying every human deserves respect.
“If our federal government is going to release these individuals who have been detained, they need to make sure they are doing so in a humane manner. They need to take every step they can to help them. People are worthy of respect and being treated with respect. You don’t just put people out there who can’t speak the language and have no phone and maybe not the funds to get anyplace,” he said.