Between the Fences: Before Guantanamo, There Was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center

Overview

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 ...
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Between the Fences: Before Guantanamo, there was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hefner, a guard in the 1980s at the Port Isabel immigration detention center in the Rio Grande valley of Texas, witnessed physical, emotional, financial, and drug-related abuses perpetrated on detainees by INS officers. Hefner cites instances of gross misconduct, and laments "the men, women, and children caught between the fences of U.S. government policy and the degenerate power of its enforcers" at Port Isabel. He recalls that INS officers and security supervisors demanded sexual favors from detainees, for example, and unlawful inspections of detainee court papers and possessions. Though Hefner empathized with his fellow guards, he made efforts to stop the abuse, contacting the Office of the Inspector General, the FBI, leading state politicians, and even the U.S. Attorney General, though he doesn't know if his efforts resulted in any action. The author's ethical and political positions are clear; while we send armed servicemen and women to prison for abuse abroad, he states, we don't "...hold federal officials accountable for the same crimes within our own borders." His book is a valuable first-person account of an important and timely subject.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

"People who care about social justice and America's image in the world should read former prison guard Tony Hefner's disturbing account of sexual and physical abuse at Port Isabel. We need to know. Was Port Isabel an isolated case of prisoner abuse or does similar abuse occur at other detainee centers? Has the abuse ended at Port Isabel or does it still occur? How do we know? What, if anything, is the federal government doing to monitor what happens behind the closed doors and locked gates of its detainee centers?"—Carol M. Swain, editor of Debating Immigration

Hefner, a guard in the 1980s at the Port Isabel immigration detention center in the Rio Grande valley of Texas, witnessed physical, emotional, financial, and drug-related abuses perpetrated on detainees by INS officers. Hefner cites instances of gross misconduct, and laments "the men, women, and children caught between the fences of U.S. government policy and the degenerate power of its enforcers" at Port Isabel. He recalls that INS officers and security supervisors demanded sexual favors from detainees, for example, and unlawful inspections of detainee court papers and possessions. Though Hefner empathized with his fellow guards, he made efforts to stop the abuse, contacting the Office of the Inspector General, the FBI, leading state politicians, and even the U.S. Attorney General, though he doesn't know if his efforts resulted in any action. The author's ethical and political positions are clear; while we send armed servicemen and women to prison for abuse abroad, he states, we don't "...hold federal officials accountable for the same crimes within our own borders." His book is a valuable first-person account of an important and timely subject.
Publisher's Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583229125
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,464,659
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.68 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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