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The El Centro Service Processing Center, also known as the El Centro Detention Center is an immigration detention facility located 220 miles south of Los Angeles, and just 13.5 miles from the US-Mexico border. The facility, built in 1975, last underwent construction in 2007. It houses immigrant detainees who are currently in removal proceedings, but also serves as a “staging area” for immigrants who are awaiting deportation. The El Centro Service Processing Center (SPC) has bed space for 544 detainees, and takes in roughly 5,400 inmates each year. The facility houses only adult males.
Contacting the Facility
El Centro Service Processing Center
1115 North Imperial Avenue
El Centro, California 92243
(760)336-4600 (press 1 for Spanish, press 0 for operator)
Contacting A Detainee
To speak to a detainee by phone, call (760)336-4641 and leave a voicemail message for the detainee to return your call. Be sure to include the person’s full name and alien number. Or you can try leaving a message with the operator. (To reach the operator, call (760)336-4600 and press “0”.) Note: the facility will not connect you directly to a detainee, and the detainee is not allowed free phone calls to family and friends. As a result, you will need to send the person money to return your call.
To deposit money in the person’s account, you can deposit cash in machines located in the lobby of the El Centro Service Processing Center. You can also mail to the facility a money order. Finally, you can click here to make a deposit online.
To visit a person at the detention facility in El Centro, go to 1115 North Imperial Avenue, El Centro, California 92243 during the following hours:
- Monday through Friday, between the hours of 6pm and 9pm
- Saturday and Sunday, 9am-11am, 1pm-3pm, and 6pm-9pm
To send mail to the person, use the following address:
Inmate Name and Alien Number
El Centro SPC
1115 North Imperial Ave.
El Centro, CA 92243
Contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Because the facility is an ICE processing center, you can call the main desk and ask to be connected directly to an ICE deportation officer. Since officers are assigned to cases based on the last three digits of the person’s alien number, have that number available so that your call can be routed to the right officer. The main desk of the El Centro Service Processing Center can be reached at (760)336-4600. The head supervisor at El Centro is Assistant Field Office Director Johnny N. Williams. He reports to the head of the San Diego Field Office, Robin F. Baker.
While many immigration detainees can be released before case is finished, some are eligible for release on an immigration bond. Sometimes, ICE determines that a person is eligible for bond, without the detainee having to request a bond hearing before an immigration judge. To find out if ICE will allow a person’s release on bond, call (760)336-4600, and ask to speak to the deportation officer assigned to the case. If the deportation officer is unwilling to speak to you about the person’s case, you may want to have an attorney or legal representative inquire into matter.
Immigration bonds can be posted at any ICE ERO Field Office in the United States. However, if you want to get the person released in the shortest amount of time, you may want to make arrangements for bond to be posted at the facility itself. If that is not possible, you can try posting bond at the ERO Field Office in San Diego:
880 Front Street, Suite 2242
San Diego, California 92101
To contact the San Diego Field Office, call (619)557-6117.
After bond is posted, an inmate at El Centro Service Processing Center is not provided transportation to a bus station or airport. (This policy differs from one field office to another.) The best practice, therefore, is to arrange for someone to pick up the detainee directly from the facility.
The Removal Process
Immigration inmates at El Centro are virtually certain to end up in removal proceedings. In removal proceedings, ICE makes a case for why the person should be deported from the United States. Under most circumstances, the immigration detainee has the chance to present a defense to deportation. The defense may involve rebutting factual allegations made by ICE, or presenting evidence in favor of granting one of several types of relief.
Detainees at El Centro SPC attend an immigration court located inside the detention facility. The court is referred to as the El Centro Immigration Court. The court has three judges:
- Judge Dennis R. James
- Judge Jack W. Staton
- Judge Jack H. Weil
When a person is released from El Centro Service Processing Center before his case is completed, the case is automatically transferred to a non-detained docket at the Imperial Immigration Court. The Imperial Immigration Court is located just 2 miles from El Centro. Note: the case is not transferred until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) files the necessary paperwork with the immigration court to confirm that a person has left the detention facility. If a person has recently left El Centro, but his case is not scheduled at Imperial, it is probably due to a delay by DHS.
From the time of arrest, it can take up to 3 weeks for a person to see an immigration judge, from the time that he or she is detained. In fiscal year 2011, it took an average of 64 days for a case at El Centro Service Processing Center to be completed.
The El Centro Service Processing Center is an ICE processing center, which is operated, in part, by Akal Security.
More than half of the detainees at the El Centro Service Processing Center are Mexican nationals. The rest are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and a smattering of other countries.
In the past, the El Centro Service Processing has received numerous criticisms for detainee mistreatment. As far back as 1984, over 300 immigrant detainees went on a hunger strike to protest overcrowding and poor sanitation at El Centro. In 2004, an external audit revealed that staff were keeping inmates in Hold Rooms for more than 12 hours, past the permitted time. Also, deportation officers were not conducting the required weekly visits with detainees. The audit also highlighted that the facility was placing detainees’ health at risk. Detainees screened for tuberculosis were being placed in holding cells with new arrivals who had not been screened. The following year, the El Centro Service Processing Center had not corrected the communications gap between staff and inmates. An audit reported that staff members did not document or consistently track the receipt of detainee request forms. Furthermore, detainees were still being held for more than 12 hours in hold rooms.
Allegations were also made of sexual harassment at the facility. A report titled, “Stop Prisoner Rape,” cited a case study of an Iranian citizen named Saeed Kangarlou, who accused a facility doctor of rubbing up against him. Feeling violated, Kangarlou refused to seek further medical treatment at the facility.
If you are having difficulty locating someone at the El Centro Service Processing Center, you may want to try contacting any the following immigration detention centers: