The Port Isabel Detention Center (PIDC) in Los Fresnos, TX has been in the news lately in connection with the ongoing national discussion regarding U.S. immigration policies. Ahtna Support and Training Services (AhtnaSTS) has a contract to provide detention center services at PIDC, and a recent story by The Daily Beast contained several inaccuracies and misrepresentations about our management of this facility. We wanted to take a moment to clarify a few key facts – and address how the core values of our corporation with regard to respect, safety, quality and integrity guide every aspect of the important work we do at PIDC.
We take seriously our responsibility to provide exemplary care at PIDC. This is supported by the perfect scores we received from two separate outside performance audits conducted at PIDC in 2017. These audits reflect the findings of an exhaustive review of AhtnaSTS’ supervision at PIDC, ranging from security, food services, transportation operations, detainee care and safety, and facility management.
Our detention officers are trained to be compassionate to everyone at PIDC. Our employees are taught to understand that detainees who arrive at PIDC are going through a challenging experience – and our employees take great strides to support them through this difficult process. PIDC detention officers are instructed to comply with the guidelines set forth by the American Correctional Association and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Performance Based National Detention Standards. And our detention officers diligently manage the needs of detainees during their stay at PIDC to ensure they are treated with kindness and respect. Our detention officers also know that anyone who violates AhtnaSTS’ strict codes of conduct will be held accountable and subject to criminal prosecution.
PIDC does not detain children or juveniles, and they are not supervised by AhtnaSTS at off-site locations. PIDC is an adult facility for men and women only. AhtnaSTS is not involved in the arrest or border security operations of the detainees and/or families in any way. ICE and Customs and Border Protection make the actual first contact with the undocumented immigrants as they cross the border. They are then staged at another facility and ultimately transported to PIDC for medical review, housing, and provided with nutritious meals, and comfort care.
Our PIDC contract has no association or connection whatsoever to Trump Administration immigration policies. The Daily Beast incorrectly associates Ahtna among the “companies and charities bringing in millions of dollars off the Trump administration’s treatment of immigration families.” It’s important we clarify that the PIDC contract was granted in 2008 well before President Trump was elected. And the scope of our contract has not changed from the time it was originally awarded.
PIDC detainee officers have never coerced detainees. Our detainee officers have never told detainees they could return to their families if they withdrew their asylum requests, contrary to claims perpetuated in The Daily Beast story. PIDC detainee officers have no authority, directive, or incentive to make any such statement to detainees. And there is a designated grievance process that would have been initiated and investigated by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility had any such action taken place. We dedicate ourselves every day to providing a safe and respectful environment for those under our care who are working through the immigration process.
Our PIDC contract is not worth $800 million. This, too, was misstated by The Daily Beast. What’s more, the story conveyed the misimpression that AhtnaSTS is the sole beneficiary of the entire contract sum. The reality is AhtnaSTS receives only a tiny fraction of the overall award value, as the vast majority is paid out to support and maintain PIDC facility operations.
We have never managed a detention facility in Florida. The claim that we once had “run” a detention center in Florida isn’t true, either. An Ahtna company had a previous Florida contract that was limited to providing detention facility maintenance and food service in accordance with ICE’s Performance Based National Detention Standards.
We are not a Tribe. The Daily Beast story mischaracterizes this as well. Ahtna, Inc. is an Alaska Native Corporation established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and is not a federally recognized Tribe.
As an Alaska Native and shareholder-owned corporation, Ahtna constantly seeks to enhance the overall wellbeing of our shareholders through employment, educational opportunities, monetary dividends, and other benefits. Government contracting provides a vital role in our ability to provide these benefits and the provision of vital shareholder services and programs aimed at preserving our culture, developing our resources, protecting our land, enhancing the lives of our people, and maintaining our cultural identity.
Our mission is to provide responsible economic growth for future generations of Ahtna people. The work we do at the Port Isabel Detention Center helps support this worthy endeavor. We will continue our commitment to deliver high quality services all of our clients have come to expect from Ahtna’s family of companies, so that we may continue to return strong value to our shareholders moving forward.
 The Daily Beast story incorrectly states Ahtna, Inc. supports the PIDC contract. This award is performed by Ahtna Support and Training Services (AhtnaSTS), a subsidiary of Ahtna, Inc.’s holding company, Ahtna Netiye’, LLC.
 AhtnaSTS was awarded the PIDC contract, which was previously held by another Ahtna company, as a competitive bid in 2014.
Ahtna may only have a direct role in operating a quasi federal prison under government contract; and may not be directly involved in setting policy in this state sanctioned kidnapping and in the political coercion that is being directed by Donald Trump; but, in allowing the U.S. government to use their facility as an instrument in what amounts to an extortion racket, using the threat of force, termination of parental rights and imprisoning infants, young children and adults alike, as pawns and hostages in the guise of a legal action which is anything but; Ahtna will be forever tainted by their cooperation and will be viewed as a willing partner in this reprehensible process. Ahtna needs to seek the advice and assistance of their attorneys and prevent the White House from carrying out this evil process within their facility. As a native corporation that consistently extols the virtues of family, Ahtna needs to take a stand, rebuke the White House's action, and at least attempt to prevent them from using their facility in this manner. Anything less will be viewed as complicity. This time will be seen as a very dark stain in U.S. history and Ahtna should do everything in their power to rise above this.
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