Grassroots Leadership Blog

My Unplanned Senate Testimony: How Local Immigration Enforcement Policies Hurt Communities, Including My Family

Monday morning, as I walked to the Capitol to join Grassroots Leadership’s Cristina Parker, Lauren Voyles, and several other immigrant rights advocates from the community in a senate hearing on sanctuary cities, I received the following text message: “Have you testified in one of these before? If not, it could be a good opportunity. They are talking about border issues, so it may be a good thing for you to speak about”

Cue panic attack. I had never testified before and the last senate hearing I had attended was opened with testimony from an eloquent and well-prepared professor, the opposite of what I felt that morning. 

Outside of the room holding the hearing Cristina quickly explained the process and I hastily filled out a form so that I could be put on the docket to testify. She handed me a piece of paper to scribble out a quick script for myself and after staring at it for a few seconds I realized I actually did have a lot to say and I wanted it to be heard.

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Highlights from our Community Conversation in Austin!

Last week our board members Nicole Porter and Christopher Petrella addressed a packed house at Huston-Tillotson University for A Community Conversation on Race, Mass Incarceration, and the Private Prison Industry.  In addition to spotlighting our board members’ work, our intention was to use this event to bring more visibility to the criminal justice side of our programs here in Austin.

We opened the event by taking a visual straw poll of who was in the room.  Kymberlie asked participants to raise their hands in response to questions like, “Who in this room has been directly affected by the criminal justice system,” and “How many of you believe that criminal justice policies affect us all?”  People responded most enthusiastically to the question, “Who believes we have the power to change criminal justice policies and practices?” with cheers and claps!  

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Humpday Hall of Shame: GEO Doesn't Make Enough Money?!

Congratulations, it's a tie! Today's Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to the GEO Group and Rep. John Kavanagh.  

Last Friday, Arizona House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Kavanagh allegedly wrote an additional $900,000 into the Arizona budget the for-profit prison corporation. Kavanagh maintains that GEO Group lobbyists requested the money, but Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick, however, claims that no additional funding was requested for GEO. 

Such a deal perhaps should not come a surprise, since Kavanagh apparently received six campaign contributions from GEO during the last election cycle. In fact, GEO CEO George Zoley, senior vice presidents Thomas Wierdsma, John Bulfin, Jorge Dominicis, and Stephen Fuller, and employee James Black all donated the maximum individual donation amount, $424, between June 29 and and July 9, 2012. Kristin Boilini and and Nicholas Simonetta, two lobbyists for GEO's lobbying firm Pivotal Policy Consulting, also donated to Kavanagh during that time. 

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Humpday Hall of Shame: ICE Retaliates against Hunger Strikers

Just when we thought Immigration and Customs Enforcement couldn't stoop any lower, they pulled another sick stunt. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are retaliating against men on hunger strike at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas. Men detained at the facility have been on hunger strike since March 18, demanding better medical care, commissary prices, and a stop to deportations. One hundred and twenty men are said to be on hunger strike at the facility as of March 20, following in the footsteps of strikers at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9) was also appalled by the conditions within the Tacoma facility. Both facilities are owned by the GEO Group, a private prison corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida.  

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International Women's Day 2014 in Taylor, Texas; a small caravan of Hutto Visitation Program volunteers went to Hutto

Guest blogger Elaine Cohen shares her experience at the Hutto Detention Center, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, on International Women's Day. 

 
March 8 was International Women's Day!  In the past I have gone to many a march or gathering to celebrate.  This year I am happy to say I  visited at Hutto with 5 others from the program: Arielle, Arantxa and Sharon.  Our friend, Stephanie, at American Gateways also gave us information about 17 more women asking for visitors, all of whom are from Honduras or El Salvador.
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Hump Day Hall of Shame: Kentucky Locks Up Aging and Sick, CCA Gets Rich...Twice

Kentucky plans to make the private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), rich off of taxpayer money by locking up aging and sick people. This new prison plan will fill a CCA prison that closed after prisoners were relocated due to horrendous sexual assault allegations and penal reforms.

Despite the fact that Kentucky kicked CCA out of their state mere months ago, they are allowing the company to fill this empty prison to operate as an “assisted living and nursing facility.” Kentucky’s Department of Corrections has made it clear that this is not an initiative they requested or are behind.

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Second Detainee Strike Shedding Light on Private Detention Abuses

Conroe, TX - Today marks the second day of a hunger strike initiated by immigrant detainees at the Joe Corley Detention Facility run by for-profit private prison company, GEO Group. This strike, part of a larger effort to end deportations, was inspired by one that began March 7th in Tacoma, Washington at a facility that is also run by GEO Group.

An attorney that confirmed the strike during a visit to Joe Corley yesterday morning was able to communicate the following demands from the strikers:

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