Lawsuit aims to stop licensing of Texas immigration detention facilities

May 4, 2016
The Guardian

Immigration activists are fighting back against a Texas decision to license immigration detention centres that critics call “baby jails”.

A lawsuit was launched on Tuesday in an attempt to stop the licensing, four days after the Texas department of family and protective services (DFPS) granted a childcare licence to one of two federal family holding facilities near San Antonio, with the second set to receive its permit imminently.

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Yet the DFPS pressed on and now faces a lawsuit from Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group opposed to private prisons, and two detained mothers. It argues that the DFPS is overstepping its authority by regulating places that are not, in reality, childcare establishments. Patrick Crimmins, a DFPS spokesman, said the agency is reviewing the suit and consulting with the state’s attorney general’s office.

“By all reasonable measures, family detention camps are prisons. They are not childcare facilities,” Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. It is not the first time the group has taken legal action on the issue: It won a temporary injunction last November to stop the state from using an emergency rule to fast-track the licensing process without public comment.