Immigrant Prisoners in Texas Rise Up Against Horrific Conditions

February 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Willacy County Correctional Center, February 20
2,000 prisoners at the Willacy County Correctional Center in South Texas rose up on February 20 against the brutality they are subjected to.


About 2,000 prisoners at the Willacy County Correctional Center in South Texas rose up on February 20 against the brutality they are subjected to. The federal prison, run by a private company, mainly holds undocumented immigrants.

According to The Guardian:

The unrest began when prisoners refused to come to breakfast or report for work in a bid to protest problems with medical services at the facility....

The inmates broke out of their housing structures and converged in the recreation yard, setting fire to several kevlar domes, or tents, that serve as prison housing.

According to news reports, fires were set inside three of the 10 Kevlar domes, and the prisoners “breached” the housing units and reached the recreation yard. Officials said guards used tear gas to “control” the prisoners.

Relative outside immigration centerRelatives of immigrants outside the Willacy Country detention facility tell the news media they are being denied information about the condition of their family members, and that the prisoners would not have risen up if they were not being mistreated.

According to federal officials, as many as 2,800 prisoners will be moved from Willacy to another facility because the prison is now “uninhabitable.”

While news reports are not very detailed about what led to this uprising, the horrific conditions at Willacy have been reported on in recent years by various groups. In June 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report titled “Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System.” Among the findings of the report regarding Willacy:

  • Most “dormitories” are Kevlar tents that each house about 200 men in bunk beds that are reportedly spaced only a few feet apart. Dante, a 38-year-old Mexican immigrant convicted of reentry, said the tents are dirty and crawling with insects and that the toilets often overflow and always smell foul. “Sometimes I feel suffocated and trapped,” he said. “A lot of people get very upset and angry. Sometimes they become so frustrated that they even speak of burning down the tents. But what’s the point? They’d build them back up.”
  • A former Willacy nurse testified at a June 2009 Capitol Hill briefing about the “extreme temperatures, inadequate nutrition, medical staffing shortages, and long delays for critically needed health care” that persisted at Willacy. She remarked, “The level of human suffering was just unbelievable.” A 2011 PBS Frontline documentary highlighted numerous stories of racial, physical, and sexual abuse of detainees at Willacy.

This is not the first prisoner action at Willacy. An uprising in February 2014 was put down with the deployment of 30 county sheriff patrol cars and injuries to prisoners.

And, as the ACLU report makes clear, the conditions prisoners face at Willacy are not unique but are prevalent at other immigrant detention centers, which hold more than 25,000 prisoners.

The prisoners at Willacy righteously stood up against the inhumane treatment they faced. People around the country need to support their courageous action, and oppose any punishment and retaliation that they may face from the government and prison authorities.

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.