Security companies reach agreement over detention center operation

FILE - In this June 26, 2018, file photo, vehicles leave the Port Isabel Detention Center, which holds detainees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Fresnos, Texas. The Trump administration said Sept. 6, it is abandoning a longstanding court settlement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept locked up, and it is proposing new regulations that would let the government detain families until their immigration cases are decided. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, file)

BROWNSVILLE — Two private security companies battling over a subcontract at the Port Isabel Detention Center have agreed to extend a temporary restraining order set to expire Friday until April.

In a joint filing, Asset Protection & Security Services and AhtnaSTS said they are scheduled for mediation in March and agreed the temporary restraining order was necessary while those talks proceed.

Asset Protection & Security Services, which is subcontracted by AhtnaSTS to provide security service at the immigration detention center, sued AhtnaSTS in the 357th state District Court on Jan. 22, alleging that the company is wrongfully terminating its subcontract in a retaliatory measure.

AhtnaSTS denies that allegation, and has said in court documents that it wants to terminate Asset’s subcontract because it believes that the company violated local, state and federal laws by not paying health-and-welfare benefits to probationary employees.

Both companies compete for government contracts to run private immigration detention centers across the country.

Asset claims that AhtnaSTS terminated its contract in a retaliatory move after Asset terminated a subcontract it had with AhtnaSTS in Florence, Arizona.

According to Asset, during a renegotiation between AhtnaSTS and the government, federal regulators requested certain payroll documents to prove new pay rates and an auditor wanted to know about health-and-welfare benefits paid to one person. In court documents, Asset said it investigated and determined a clerical error had been made and then it investigated, correcting similar errors in fall 2018.

Asset claims AhtnaSTS only brought this up after it terminated the subcontract in Arizona.

AhtnaSTS denies this, saying in recent court documents that the timing of the payroll request had nothing to do with the sister contract. Rather, it was an effort to make sure Asset was complying with payroll requirements under the requirements of the Service Contract Act so AhtnaSTS would not be at risk of being debarred from government contracts by virtue of pay practices.