Between the Fences
Before Guantanamo, There Was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center
By Tony Hefner
(Seven Stories Press, Paperback, 9781583229125, 286pp.)
Publication Date: July 2010
List Price: $19.95*
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Something at the Texas detention facility is terribly wrong, and Tony Hefner knows it. But the guards are repeatedly instructed not to speak of anything they witness. In the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the United States, good jobs are scarce and the detention facility pays the best wages for a hundred miles. The guards follow orders and keep quiet.
For six years, Tony Hefner was a security guard at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center, one of the largest immigration detention centers in America, and witnessed alarming corruption and violations of basic human rights. Officers preyed upon the very people whom they are sworn to protect. On behalf of the 1,100 men, women, and children residing there on an average day, and the 1,500 new undocumented immigrants who pass through its walls every month, this is the story of the systematic sexual, physical, financial, and drug-related abuses of detainees by guards.
The Port Isabel Service Processing Center continues to hold detainees of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement whose immigration statuses or citizenship have not been officially determined or who are awaiting repatriation. On April 22, 2009, detainees there began a hunger strike, alleging violations of due process, inadequate access to medical care and legal resources, and various other abuses.
Tony Hefner is a human rights activist and founder of the Bearing Precious Seed Ranch ministry in southern Texas for local Hispanic children. He has appeared on "Inside Edition," PBS, and many other radio and television news programs where he reported the abuses taking place at Port Isabel. Tony and his wife Barbara now live in northern Michigan, where he continues his fight with national officials for new investigations.