As a tent city rises at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station to house a possible influx of Haitian earthquake victims, speculation is swirling that refugees could also be sheltered in a less hospitable place: Gitmo's Migrant Operations Center.
The center is designed to house Caribbean people who are caught while trying to reach the U.S. illegally. And it's run by the GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based prison operator with a questionable humanitarian track record.
The company, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., had to remove all the juveniles
from its Louisiana prison after the U.S. Justice Department in 2000 alleged the inmates were abused and neglected.
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In December 2008, a man died in one of GEO's Texas prisons after allegedly not receiving medication for epilepsy and being put in an isolation cell. His death sparked a riot at the Reeves County Detention Center.
So far, according to the Miami Herald, there's no indication of a mass exodus from Haiti, so it's unclear if the Migrant Operations Center will be used. But the GEO Group's website says it has the capacity to hold 130 people, "with an additional capacity of approximately 400 migrants in the event of a surge."
Pablo Paez, director of corporate relations for GEO, referred questions about the center to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), since that agency contracts with GEO to run the facility.
An ICE spokesman in Washington, D.C., did not respond to multiple requests for comment yesterday.