Williamson County commissioners voted on Tuesday to terminate their lucrative contract with the T. Don Hutto detention center in the nearby town of Taylor — a site that houses immigrant women —by next year.
"This is an important step forward in the fight for justice at Hutto and a victory for all who have raised their voices," Bethany Carson, immigration organizer and researcher at Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, said. The nonprofit has long led the charge in urging commissioners to end their cooperation with the detention site. "We thank all the members of the Shut Down Hutto coalition for their work to make this happen," Carson added. "However, there is still much to do. We must first fight to ensure that every woman at Hutto, including all of the moms who have had their kids taken from them, are released from the facility immediately."
The move also comes a week after Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant rights advocacy group, reacted to news of Trump's reversal of his own family separation policy initiated as part of a "zero tolerance" immigration crackdown — a decision made via executive order after Trump declared he would be unable to reverse the policy through that method. Officials at the nonprofit were unsatisfied with the reversal, suggesting it merely transforms a mass family separation crisis into a mass family incarceration one.
"Together in a cage is not better than separate cages," Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said at the time. "This order is going to lead to more and potentially longer family detention. Locking families in detention camps with a proven history of abuse to be traumatized together instead of traumatized apart is a sick way to supposedly 'keep families together.'"
"The decision does not immediately close the facility, but rather gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement until January to renegotiate a possible agreement," Grassroots Leadership officials said in a press advisory. "At least 35 mothers who have had their kids taken from them at the border are being held the facility, and some are at imminent risk of deportation."