Political Rewind: Inside A Georgia ICE Immigration Facility

Aug 23, 2019

On this edition of Political Rewind, the Trump administration issues new rules designed to further reduce the number of immigrants seeking new lives in the United States.

Our panel looks at whether the policies are cruel and punitive or necessary to stop the flow of migrants across the border.

State Sen. Sally Harrell recently toured a federal immigration detention center near Columbus. She joins us to tell us about what she experienced.

Also, Georgia leaders anticipate the possibility of an economic slowdown that could impact tax revenues. As a result, legislators are talking again about legalizing gambling in the state. Is now the time to approve wagering? Our panel discusses. 


Jim Galloway -- Lead Political Reporter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Senator Sally Harrell -- District 40 (D)

Charles Kuck-- Georgia Immigration Attorney 

Mayor Rusty Paul -- Sandy Springs


Interview Highlights

This interview has been edited for content and length.

Charles Kuck on the living conditions of the Stewart Denton Center

They're intentionally made to be difficult. There is food. It's food that's prepared as cheaply as possible because the contractors are receiving a set dollar per day for the inmates. They make more profit by reducing the cost of the things they're supplying including the food. So the food is the same every single day. It's the cheapest type of food; it might be rice and beans. There are limited amounts of protein.

The horrible thing is — there is air conditioning, in case you're wondering. There is air conditioning, when it's working — there are frequent isolation events. We have had the entire prison so shut down for chicken pox, for example, about a month or so ago. But what they don't have enough of is medical care both for mental health as well as physical health. Which is why people have committed suicide at that place and have died of treatable medical conditions. When you have a problem and you finally get to see the nurse on duty, they will just give you aspirin and say you'll be fine.   

Mayor Rusty Paul on the fear immigration policies have brought on potential international students/ innovators.

This is where the failure to deal with the legal side bothers me more than anything else because where there's a talent drain going on — we used to bring in the best and brightest from around the world and we focused on that. These Indian kids who had come to Georgia Tech, MIT, and all the great universities around Georgia, they're not coming right now because they're not sure how they're going to be received and how they're going to be treated. There's a brain-drain that's going to occur because we're not accessing that rich talent pool that exists around the world that we've always embraced. We’re losing very talented and skilled people who change the world in a positive way, and it could be happening here and now they're going to Canada and other places.

Host Bill Nigut on the perception of immigrants of the past compared to today.

My paternal grandfather was put on a boat by his parents from Budapest, came to the United States, went to Pittsburgh where he worked in the coal mines. He met my grandmother in Pennsylvania and ended up as a motorcycle cop in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived in what was called the Hungarian ghetto. But here's what's interesting too about this. I think those are kind of romantic stories when we think back on them now. They weren't at the time. When our families came here, they were escaping desperate conditions. The great innovators who come in, that's not the way we view the people who are trying to get across the border today.

Senator Sally Harrell on an encounter with a Stewart Detention Center detainee.

The gentleman I talked with was a young man. He had been through more than a dozen countries to get here. He told me all these details about open boats and the high seas days stomping through jungles and corrupt countries unsafe countries. He put a lot of effort to get here and had been in detention for five months. When I first started talking to him, I told him that I had put $20 on his commissary card and he just grinned. He was going to use it to try to find a lawyer and that's one of the things that's so difficult is these people these are civil cases. They do not have access to lawyers and Lumpkin is in the middle of nowhere. It's difficult to find lawyers who can help these people. He had lost his asylum trial. If he’s is sent back, he'll be killed in his country.