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The QueQue

The QueQue: Nursing home whistleblowers fired, Lamar Smith's 'Holiday on ICE', TCEQ tracking emissions in the Eagle Ford

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At the start of last week's hearing, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif) slammed ICE's new standards as "part of an extensive public relations effort aimed at pro-amnesty advocates." He pointed to the newly built Karnes County Civil Detention Center (see "ICE's new 'soft' detention strategy," March 21), set to house low-risk detainees and asylum seekers about an hour outside San Antonio, as evidence of ICE's cushy new approach.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif) tried to put ICE's revised standards into context, saying the snarky title of Smith's hearing trivialized documented abuse of immigrants, particularly of women detainees, inside ICE's detention network. She recalled cases where immigrants were raped by guards during transport, sexually assaulted during strip searches, or died due to lack of medical care. "I don't think it's a hospitality guideline to prevent rape of detainees, women who have done nothing wrong, and to prevent death and abuse of detainees in custody," Lofgren said.

The ACLU says it has tracked over 180 reports of sexual assault of detainees, 56 of which occurred in Texas facilities. Most recently the ACLU sued ICE and private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of a transgendered woman seeking asylum in the U.S. who landed in an Arizona detention center. In addition to the guards calling the woman "faggot" and "dog," the lawsuit claims one guard "forced [her] to watch him masturbate into a white styrofoam cup and then demanded that she ingest his ejaculated semen."

TCEQ tracking emissions in the Eagle Ford

In August 2011, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality contractors armed with infrared cameras flew over portions of South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale, filming oil and gas production sites spewing greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, compounds that contribute to ground-level ozone. "The TCEQ scheduled these flyovers as a proactive tool to identify sources and focus resources," the agency wrote via email in response to questions from the Current. "The TCEQ has conducted follow up investigations and/or interacted with most of the site owners/operators to discuss emissions identified during the flyovers."

The result? Of the sites imaged, nearly 200 showed emissions bellowing from Eagle Ford oil and gas production sites, the most recorded in Karnes County with 63 sites identified as having elevated emissions. With the majority of investigations conducted and closed, the TCEQ says four notices of violation and one a notice of enforcement were issued in the Laredo region, most, it appears, for poor record keeping. The agency says it still has 29 open investigations.

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