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Judge orders that ICE detainees can be held at the Wyatt



In a win for bondholders, people who have invested heavily in for-profit prisons, money can once more be made in detaining undocumented immigrants under President Donald Trump’s Zero Tolerance Southern Border Strategy

United States Chief Judge William Smith has granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the Wyatt Detention Facility bondholders (called the “Trustees” in his decision) and directed the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC) board to rescind the April 5, 2019 vote suspending the contract between the Wyatt and the United States Marshall Service (USMS) to house United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees.

Due to the judges decision, Wyatt’s Warden Daniel Martin is no longer required to arrange for the removal of ICE detainees and the Warden has been directed to immediately tell ICE that the prison is once again open to housing ICE detainees.

“…the Warden will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the Corporation and perform the Corporation’s contractual obligations under the USMS Contract, the ICE Addendum, and all other contracts relating to the detention of persons at the Wyatt in accordance with contractual terms and under applicable law,” writes Judge Williams.

The CFDFC board is expected to unseal the minutes of the votes taken at a 9am, April 24 executive session during a meeting scheduled for tomorrow night at 5pm. These votes, we now know, were made to comply with the judges orders. Shortly after making these required votes, recently appointed board chair Joseph Molina Flynn resigned his position.

In addition, the court appointed Peter Argeropulos to act as Board Monitor. Argeropulos will act as the Wyatt bondholder’s eyes and ears at board meetings. His job will be to ensure that the bondholder’s investment in the for-profit prison is protected.

Can we please ask a favor?

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The bondholders have sued elected City officials and the CFDFC board for $130 million. In reaction, the elected officials counter sued, at least partly under Rhode Island’s anti-SLAPP laws. Judge Williams’ decision stays the lawsuits and counter lawsuits until July 24, 2019.

In a separate order Judge Williams also appointed Deming Sherman as a “special master,” accountable only to the court.

Central Falls City Solicitor Matthew Jerzyk painted the appointment of Sherman as a win for the City, saying that the “Special Master will ensure that the Constitutional rights of the ICE detainees at Wyatt will be protected.” Jerzyk added that to his knowledge, there is no other detention facility in the country where the constitutional rights of detainees in the United States have such an advocate.

In Judge Williams’ decision appointing a Special Master, the job is described as being created to, “effectively and promptly respond to disputes brought to the attention of the Special Master, arising out of any activity or vote of the Board of Directors that may impair and/or negatively impact the assets of the Corporation, the security of the Bonds and/or the revenue stream of the Corporation.”

To my reading, the job seems more about protecting revenue streams than preserving constitutional rights.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.