Dialogue on Detention: Closing Polk Together

In early October, representatives from Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families (TUFF) traveled to Houston, TX to meet with members of La Tuya (Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance) and LIFT (Liberating Immigrant Families Together) to strategize the closure of Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas. 

The Polk County Detention Center houses immigrant men, most of whom are seeking asylum, through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and is one of the ten worst detention centers in the country. In September, staff and volunteers from Grassroots Leadership and TUFF visited Polk and had the opportunity to interview thirty men who are detained there. The interview included questions regarding living conditions, access to privacy, food quality and quantity, and treatment from facility personnel. In general, we found that conditions in Polk are worse than in the summer of 2012. The retreat's purpose was to provide a venue for reflection and the development of strategies that will hopefully lead to the facility's closure. The information collected during interviews will be compiled into a report...stay tuned for its release later this year. 

To get our creative juices flowing, we created human detention machines and mapped out an "Inequalitree" with "roots" and "leaves" representing causes and effects of immigrant detention. In addition, we participated in a human spectrum exercise, where we positioned ourselves according to whether or not we agreed with a particular statement or goal. These activities helped us to communicate our concerns and suggestions, as well as to gain an understanding of the various organizing capacities and methods at our disposal. The human machine exercise, as well as the stenciling workshop led by Valerie of La Tuya, are useful not only in strategizing but in actions and protests as well. Our brainstorming during the human spectrum exercise also helped us to identify key differences of opinion in organizing, which allowed us to further clarify our goals and develop a basic action plan. 

A special thanks to Matthew Gossage and Courtney Greene from TUFF, Valerie and Dave from La Tuya, Bob Libal from Grassroots Leadership and many, many others who facilitated and participated in activities. Everyone's enthusiasm and dedication helped make this event a huge success.