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ACLU of Pennsylvania Drops Immigration Detention Suit Against Clearfield County

— November 12, 2021

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania announced that it will drop its lawsuit against Clearfield County, which had accepted a contract to construct the largest immigration detention center in the state.

According to WITF, the ACLU had accused Clearfield County of violating the state’s open meetings laws by making its decision without adequate public input.

However, the organization said that it would drop its complaint after county commissioners said they would re-consider the proposal.

“We decided to dismiss the case after the county commissioners held a second meeting to considering the contracts,” ACLU attorney Vanessa Stine said in a statement. “That meeting was properly announced in advance and gave the public a change to weigh in.”

WITF notes that the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit after finding that Clearfield County had not given the public at least 24-hour notice before holding their vote.

Image via AlexVan.Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0). Public domain.

At the meeting, Clearfield commissioners approved contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency—along with private prison contractor The GEO Group—to convert the 1,900-bed Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility into an immigration detention center.

The prison, adds WITF, closed down for ordinary operations on March 31st, after President Joe Bide ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to no longer forge or renew existing contracts with private prison operators.

Private prison contractors, as has reported before, have a particularly bad history: numerous investigations, in numerous states, have shown that companies like The GEO Group tend to operate corrections facilities and detention centers less efficiently, and less safely, than their government counterparts.

In a statement, Clearfield County Commissioner John Sobel said he and his colleagues decide to pre-empt any drawn-out litigation by simply rescheduling the hearing in accordance with state law.

“Rather than fighting it out in court, we had no problem with just scheduling a meeting to grant the relief that was asked,” Sobel said earlier this month.

However, the county did decide to reaffirm its contracts after holding the requisite meeting.

Sobel later clarified the decision, saying he believes the detention center will bring more jobs and money into the county.

“We just think it will be a significant boon to the local economy,” he said, “particularly the Moshannon Valley area of the local economy.”

In a separate statement, ACLU attorney Stine said that—even though the organization has dropped its complaint—she does not believe another detention center will help solve America’s immigration problems.

“The Biden administration, Clearfield County, and GEO Group are engaged in systematic separation of families breaking apart of communities,” Stine said. “People with pending immigration cases should be home with their loved ones while their cases proceed.”


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