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Friday, January 15, 2010

History of Immigrant Detention at Guantanamo Bay

The U.S. military has operated a base surrounding Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for more than a century.

But has Tom Head, a civil rights blogger with About.com, points out, “it has only been over the past several decades that it has become notorious for the detention of foreign nationals.

The devastation caused by the recent earthquake may spur many Haitians to attempt a highly risky sea crossing to escape the misery of their country. At the U.S. naval facility and prison complex at Guantanamo Bay, the Department of Homeland Security has a near-empty detention center – called the Migration Operations Center -- that could serve as the center for U.S. detention and processing efforts in the Caribbean.

In the past, this center has served has a holding facility to prevent unwanted Haitian and other migrants from entering the United States. Today, under a contract with DHS it is operated by Geo Group, a private prison corporation that relies on federal government detention/prison contracts for about 40% of its revenues.

According to “The Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: A Short History, this center functioned as the federal government’s outlying detention center in the 1990s for immigrants who had attempted illegal entry by way of the Caribbean:

1991-1993: Camp Bulkeley Used to Detain HIV-Positive Haitian Refugees

Human rights activists were outraged when 310 HIV-positive Haitian immigrants were segregated from other refugees following the 1991 Haitian coup and imprisoned in Camp Bulkeley, a crowded and unsanitary detention camp. They were finally released in 1993 after an international campaign.

1996: Operation Marathon Focuses on Undocumented Chinese Migrants

Guantanamo's detention facilities have historically been used to house refugees and other undocumented immigrants captured on the high seas. Under 1996's Operation Marathon anti-smuggling initiative, Guantanamo detention facilities were used to house an estimated 120 Chinese migrants who had attempted to illegally migrate to the United States by sea.

1997: Operation Present Haven Focuses on Undocumented Guyanese Migrants

Guantanamo was also used to house Guyanese migrants who had attempted to reach the United States by sea.

For more information/photo credit, see: Guantánamo y Haití: conexión ignorada

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