49 Pages

The Corralón

WithRobert S. Kahn

The biggest immigration prison in the United States sits at the end of Farm to Market Road 510 twenty-six miles east of Harlingen, Texas, and twenty-five miles northeast of Brownsville, next to a bird sanctuary and alligator breeding ground on the Gulf of Mexico. The prisoners wear fluorescent orange jumpsuits. The government calls it the Port Isabel Service and Processing Center. Newspapers call it the Bayview detention center or Los Fresnos immigration prison. The prisoners call it the corralon- the big corral. The corralon does not appear on any road map: The closest towns are the poor fishing villages of Los Fresnos and Port Isabel, and Bayview, an unincorporated village of mansions and citrus groves. The corralon was opened as an immigration prison in 1977, with an official capacity of 236. Its capacity grew to 450 by 1984, though the prison held from 600 to 700 people at a time throughout the 1980s.