August 3, 2010
In his memoir Between the Fences: Before Guantánamo, There was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center, Hefner implicates his former co-workers and describes the abuse he witnessed at the detention center.
Hefner originally took a job as a security guard at Port Isabel, one of the highest-paying jobs in the South Texas region, to fund his ministry, the Bearing Precious Seed Ranch. Hefner and his wife started their ministry to serve Hispanic children in the border region and teach them to stay off drugs and off the streets.
Hefner says many of his fellow employees considered the detainees “second-class.” He speculates that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would take out their frustrations on the detainees, allowing their personal lives to encroach on their professional behavior.
For Hefner, the transition from a security guard to human rights activist was a no-brainer.
“When it comes to seeing abuse take place, I did exactly what every red-blooded American would have done,” he said.
Hefner says that to his knowledge there has not been an improvement in the conditions at the detention center and that in 2006 there were 108 detainees who died inside the facility for unknown reasons. Beginning January of this year, detainees organized a hunger strike, protesting conditions at the center and the frequency of transfers.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq received national media attention and launched a government investigation. Hefner says he witnessed similar abuses at Port Isabel, but that the detention center is receiving less attention because of the detainee’s immigration status.
“Because these are undocumented aliens, people just don’t care,” Hefner said. “Even though our government is against human rights abuse, they still do not enforce it in these compounds at these detention facilities.”