On October 28, 2021, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the Clearfield County commissioners for failing to follow state law when the commissioners voted to approve contracts with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the private prison company GEO Group to open the Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility for immigration detention. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two local residents and the immigrants’ rights group Juntos.
The commissioners approved the two contracts on September 28 but did not publicly post an agenda in advance of the meeting, as required by the state Sunshine Act. They only provided public notice that a meeting would be held, without offering specifics of the commissioners’ agenda.
With nearly 1900 beds, Moshannon Valley will be the largest immigration detention facility in the Northeast. Advocates expect that it will be a hub for ICE’s operations in the region and possibly the entire country.
The move by ICE also contradicts President Biden’s promises to cut ties with private prisons. Earlier this year, President Biden issued an executive order directing the Department of Justice to end contracts with private companies for criminal prison operations. Advocates, including the ACLU, Juntos, and more than 200 other organizations, have urged the administration to expand the executive order to also end contracts with private companies for civil immigration detention.