Texans target Waco detention center after reports of sub-standard conditions for immigrants

On Saturday, July 12, Texans United for Families (TUFF) joined immigrant rights advocates and organizers from around Texas gathered to shine a light on the inappropriate and dangerous conditions at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco.

Around 25 people coming from Waco, Austin, Dallas, and cities in Williamson County held a press conference in downtown Waco before driving to the Detention Center to deliver 30 copies of know-your-rights materials in Spanish. The group delivered the materials in response to reports that men detained in Jack Harwell didn’t have access to an adequate legal library, something that is of the utmost importance to immigrants who may be fighting a deportation case.

In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) delivered last month, attorneys from Waco and Austin sounded the alarm about conditions in the Jack Harwell facility. In addition to the inadequate law library, men detained there reported that they were given dirty uniforms that caused rashes, there was a lack of medical care, a lack of access to telephones to call legal service providers and inadequate visitation procedure for family visits. The letter calls for an immediate end to using Jack Harwell to detain immigrants. 

The action was part of the 34 days of action to challenge the 34,000 immigrant bed quota that is one reason why sub-standard facilities like Jack Harwell remain open despite their track records for abusing human rights.  The quota is set by Congress and requires that ICE hold 34,000 immigrants in detention every day.

The problems at Jack Harwell are not new. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by LaSalle Corrections, a for-profit  prison company that expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable.

TUFF members reminded the media gathered at the action that the issues at Jack Harwell only underscored why detention is not the appropriate solution to the humantarian crsis at the border, where thousands of children have come to the U.S. fleeing violence in Central America.

Demonstrators and attorneys in Texas are calling for ICE to stop detaining immigrants at Jack Harwell and for the 34,000 immigrant detention quota to be eliminated.