Red McCombs should divest from immigration detention center deal

Last week, protesters gathered outside the office of Thomas Gilligan, the dean of the McCombs School of Business. The protesters were upset over the school’s namesake, Red McCombs, participating in a business deal to build the country’s largest immigration detention center. The South Texas Family Detention Center, where undocumented immigrants would be processed prior to deportation, will be built on land that McCombs’ real estate company leased to the federal government. 

McCombs, a prominent booster to the University, is no stranger to controversy. His previous business deals have drawn the ire of environmentalists, and comments he made last year about incoming football coach Charlie Strong prompted a quick apology. But at a time of growing national attention to the U.S. immigration system, McCombs is wrong to work so closely with the authorities on this matter, not only because this jail-like system does not work, but also because these facilities have become infamous for neglect and abuse, including sexual assaults.

The proposed facility, which Gilligan reportedly told protesters he was concerned about, would be built on a swath of land in Dilley, southwest of San Antonio, and would not host criminals or otherwise dangerous individuals who should be removed from society. It would be a giant processing center for families accused of the civil violation of unauthorized entry into this country.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama took audacious and much needed steps to fix parts of our immigration system. Among them was using the Department of Homeland Security’s prosecutorial discretion to focus much less on families and nonviolent offenders, and more on people who actually pose threats to society.

“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children,” Obama said, when identifying the people whom both the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should specifically focus on deporting. Unfortunately, families are the target population of the detention center. 

Additionally, these facilities, often with minimal oversight, have become epicenters of neglectful behavior. Just last month, female detainees at a nearby center in Karnes County alleged systematic and widespread sexual abuse at the hands of guards at the privately run facility.

These new facilities represent the opposite direction this country should go in on the immigration issue. McCombs should take protesters’ advice and divest himself from this plan.