San Antonio Shuts Down Embattled Company's Bid To Open New Migrant Child Detention Center

Immigration advocates in San Antonio, Texas celebrated on Tuesday after the city's zoning commission blocked an embattled private prison company's bid to open at least one new detention center for migrant children.

"Victory on our fight to defend the rights of migrant children in San Antonio!" the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) wrote on Twitter after campaigning for San Antonio to reject the bid from VisionQuest.

Based in Arizona, VisionQuest has long faced allegations of mistreatment of detained children, with some allegations dating back to the 1980s.

In 1984, San Diego County in California suspended referrals to VisionQuest for a year after a young person died at one of its facilities, according to a previous report from NBC Philadelphia.

In an evaluation of the company's services, the San Diego Probation Department also reportedly identified cases of physical confrontations by staff, as well as health and safety issues.

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Then, in 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice said it had documented cases of physical and mental abuse at a site operated by the company in Franklin, Pennsylvania, with young people saying workers had pulled their hair, choked them and slammed them into walls.

Towards the end of 2017, VisionQuest was also forced to permanently close one of its facilities in Philadelphia after facing allegations of mistreatment of children.

In one case a young person was alleged to have been hit in the face by an adult worker during an argument over a chair, while in another a young person was alleged to have been choked and slapped by a worker, according to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

While the company reportedly cited financial reasons for the closure, Philadelphia Council member Helen Gym said the company had "failed our children."

"Their problems all across the country, which include multiple deaths of children in their care, complaints of child abuse, and other appalling violations, have been well documented," Gym said, according to NBC Philadelphia.

Celebrating the San Antonio zoning commission's decision this week, RAICES said "those commissioners who voted the right way have denied Vision Quest the ability to open a for-profit children's detention center in the city."

"Vision Quest has a history of abuse towards innocent young migrants and we are grateful to the commissioners for making the move," RAICES said. "Tonight we won! Tonight we made it clear that no migrant child belongs in immigration detention."

Newsweek has contacted VisionQuest for comment for this article.

Close the camps
Protesters rally against the detention of migrant children in front of the Byron G Rogers Federal building. Tom Cooper/Getty
San Antonio Shuts Down Embattled Company's Bid To Open New Migrant Child Detention Center | U.S.