Immigration Detention Justice Center

Port Isabel Detention Center

The Port Isabel Detention Center, also known as the Port Isabel Service Processing Center, is located in Los Fresnos, Texas, just 5 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.  The Los Fresnos facility, which holds roughly 700 inmates, is one of the largest immigration detention facilities in Texas.  It has come under intense scrutiny in recent years due to alleged human rights abuses.  In April of 2009 and February of 2010, inmates at Port Isabel went on a hunger strike to protest the use of solitary confinement and lengthy detention.  Because the facility is located in a hurricane hotspot, inmates there have undergone unique challenges.  For example, in 2008 the facility was fully evacuated due to Hurricane Dolly.

Contact Information

Contacting the Facility

Address:

Port Isabel Detention Center
27991 Buena Vista Boulevard
Los Fresnos, Texas 78566

Phone:

(956) 547-1700
(956) 547-1761

Contacting A Detainee

To speak to a detainee by phone, call the facility’s main desk at (956)547-1700.  Although the facility staff will not connect you directly to the detainee, he or she will pass on messages.  Leave a message for the detainee to call you back at a given time.  Before you call the facility, make sure to have the inmate’s full name and alien number on hand.  It sometimes take several hours for the message to be received by the detainee, so it is safest to request a call-back time on the following day.  Also, detainees cannot make phone calls during certain hours, so make sure and request a call-back time when detainees are free.

To deposit money in the person’s phone account, call (866) 516-0115 or visit www.telmate.com.

To visit the a person held at the Port Isabel Detention Facility, go there Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9am-11am or 1pm-3pm.  On Saturdays, Sunday, or Holidays, the visitation times depend on the inmate’s last name.

  • For A-F, Saturdays between 8am and 12pm
  • For G-L, Saturdays between 12pm and 4pm
  • For M-R, Sundays between 8am and 12pm
  • For S-Z, Sundays between 12pm and 4pm

Outside the Port Isabel Detention Center

Outside the Port Isabel Detention Center

To send mail to the person, use the following address:

Inmate Name and Alien Number
Port Isabel Detention Center
566 Veterans Drive
Pearsall, Texas 78061

To send money to the person to buy things inside the facility:

  • Using Western Union, make a money order written to: Account # 9572041797, Name: E.P. Services, City: Harlingen, Texas 78550
  • Fax a copy of the money order receipt to 956-428-3544 with the following information about the person to whom you’re sending money: (a) name, (b) nationality, (c) alien number, (d) dorm and bed number (optional).  Finally, write on it the sender’s name and phone number.

Contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

To contact ICE deportation officers working at the detention facility in Port Isabel, call (956)547-1811 or (956)547-1800.  T0 send a fax to an ICE officer, use (956)547-1812.   The head supervisor at the Port Isabel Detention Center is Assistant Field Office Director (AFOD) Michael A. Watkins.  He can be reached by calling the facility’s main line — (956)547-1700.  The Port Isabel ICE Office is governed by the Regional Field Office, located at 8940 Fourwinds Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78239.  The head of the regional office is Field Office Director Michael Pitts.  To contact him, call his assistant Melissa Lopez at (210)283-4712.

Getting Released

Immigration Bonds

Many immigration detainees are eligible for release on an immigration bond, especially those who lack serious criminal backgrounds and  those with strong ties to the United States.  You can be granted release on bond by either Immigration and Customs Enforcement or by an immigration judge.  To find out if ICE has found you eligible for a bond, call the ICE office at the facility ((956)547-1800).  Even if ICE does not grant you release on bond, you can ask the judge for one.

If an inmate is eligible for bond, and you would like to pay it, you can post bond at any ICE ERO Field Office in the United States.  However, to get a person released in the shortest amount of time, post the bond at the San Antonio ERO Field Office.

8940 Fourwinds Drive
San Antonio, Texas 78239

To contact the Bond Unit there, call (210)967-7012.

Post-Release

Inmates released from Port Isabel can be dropped off at the nearest major airport, which is the Valley International Airport at Harlingen, Texas.

The airport is located at:

3002 Heritage Way
Harlingen TX, 78550

The Removal Process

Inmates at the detention facility in Port Isabel are subject to removal from the United States.  Unless they are in expedited removal proceedings, they are entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge.  At their hearings, they are permitted to apply for relief from deportation, if any such relief is available.

Immigration Court

The Port Isabel Detention Center has a court inside of it, sometimes called the Port Isabel Processing Center or Port Isabel Immigration Court.  When they have hearings — which is every 3 weeks or so — they are walked over from the detention area to the court.  The immigration judges in Port Isabel include

  • Judge Robert Powell
  • Judge David Ayala
  • Judge Keith Hunsucker
  • Judge Howard Achtsam
  • Judge William C. Peterson

According to some sources, Judge Eleazar Tovar will be retiring soon.

When clients are released from detention, their cases are transferred automatically to the Harlingen Immigration Court, located at 2009 West Jefferson Avenue, Suite 300, Harlingen, Texas 78550.

Timeframe

It can take as long as 3 weeks for a person to see an immigration judge from the time that he or she is arrested.  From the time that a Port Isabel detainees sees an immigration judge, it takes an average of 59 days for his case to be completed.  This is much longer than the average for immigration facilities in Texas.

Facility Background

History and Intake

The Port Isabel Detention Facility is originally built in 1955 and underwent its most recent renovation in 2007.  The facility has capacity for 1200 inmates, and on average, holds 653 inmates on any given day.  In 2009, the the facility took in over 6,000 inmates.  In 2008, it released 3,949 inmates.  80.6% were deported or received voluntary departure.  The deportation rate in Port Isabel is roughly 10% higher than the national average.

Allegations of Rights Abuses

Port Isabel Detention Center Review Excerpt

2005 Executive Review

The ICE detention facility in Port Isabel has been the subject of numerous criticisms for violating the rights of detainees.  In 2005, ICE Headquarters rated the facility as deficient because of its use of EMDDs — Electro Muscular Disruption Devices.  Also deficient were Food Service, Classification System, Emergency Plans, Environmental Health and Safety, Post Orders, and two Special Management Units.  In 2007, a Headquarters Review reported that deportation officers in Port Isabel were not visiting male or female detainees often enough, and that ICE staff members were not responding to detainee requests within 72 hours.  Moreover, the majority of detainees surveyed indicated that they were not satisfied with health services.  A whopping 30$ of sick call slips were not reviewed and processed according to ICE detention standards.   In 2008, according to ICE’s internal audits, the facility was found to be “deficient.”

Nearby Facilities

If you are having difficulty locating someone at the Port Isabel Detention Center, you may want to try contacting any the following ICE detention centers:

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