Helping People Gain Power
This Saturday, Grassroots Leadership joined more than 50 other members and supporters of the Texans United for Families coalition for a vigil at the T. Don Hutto detention center, a private prison in Taylor, Texas. The vigil marked the 5th anniversary of the long but successful campaign to end the shameful practice of detaining immigrant families — including small children — at the facility.
The mood was solemn at the vigil as protesters were confronted with the renewal of mass family detention of refugee children and families from Central America. The Obama Administration has announced the opening of a family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico and has begun detaining families at a GEO Group-operated facility in Karnes County, Texas. The administration has asked for funding for up to 6,300 family detention beds across the country.Read more about Families for families: The fight against detaining immigrant families begins today
We've covered the plight of the abandoned Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield for many years. The facility — originally operated by private prison corporation GEO Group — jumped into the media in 2008 after an Idaho prisoner housed at the West Texas facility committed suicide after reportedly spending more than a year in solitary confinement and a subsequent investigation led Idaho to pull its prisoners from the facility.
GEO Group then abandoned the facility, leaving the city of Littlefield holding the hefty debt that it had floated the constructed the facility in the first place. The situation got so bad that the city attempted to auction off the facility — complete with a fast-talking auctioneer — but the sale eventually fell through. Read more about Grasping at straws, Littlefield prison seeks California prisoner contract?
About 40 women and children arrived the morning of August 1 at the Karnes County detention center near San Antonio. Another bus was expected that afternoon.
The Karnes detention center is operated by the GEO Group, a for-profit private prison company that was recently the target of hunger strikes by immigrant detainees in its custody three times in two facilities this year. The Karnes County detention center was was swiftly emptied of its current occupants to make way for women and children who have fled Central America.
The newly-converted family detention center can house up to 532 people at a cost of $140 a day, according to the Houston Chronicle. Read more about As family detention begins at Karnes, T. Don Hutto is the site of a protest
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a statement that 24 year old immigrant from El Salvador has passed away at a Laredo hospital after being held at the GEO Group's Rio Grande Detention Center in that city. According to the ICE release:
"Welmer Alberto Garcia-Huezo, 24, was declared deceased Aug. 3.
Garcia-Huezo was apprehended June 25 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol near Harlingen, Texas. Two days later, he was transferred to ICE custody and taken to Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo.
On July 6, Garcia-Huezo became ill and was immediately transferred from ICE custody to the Laredo Medical Center (LMC). LMC hospital staff initially diagnosed him with cardiac arrest. A medical examiner will review the case regarding the cause of death."
The RGDC recently underwent an expansion and added capacity for ICE detainees in addition the detainees from the United States Marshals, themselves often immigrants under criminal prosecution for an immigration violation. We will keep you posted on any developments from this story. Read more about 24-year-old immigrant dies after being held at GEO Group detention center in Laredo