After mounting public pressure and several allegations of sexual abuse, Williamson County commissioners ended the county's contract with T. Don Hutto Detention Center in June, marking a significant shift in government support of the troubled immigration jail ("Williamson County Commissioners Court Ends Hutto Contract," June 26, 2018). However, while the contract expired at the end of January, the Taylor facility remains open, sparking protest from immigration advocates, who gathered earlier this month at a Taylor City Council meeting to voice their disapproval.
The center, which holds roughly 500 mostly asylum-seeking women, is now run through a direct "short-term" contract extension between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison operator CoreCivic, says ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda. Bethany Carson of immigrant rights advocacy group Grassroots Leadership questions the process, noting that it appears there was no competitive bidding involved, including a request for proposals, as is standard with federal contracts. There is also no clarity on the length of the temporary contract. "It's very unclear what this contract extension means," says Carson. "We still have a lot of questions about how this facility remains open."