Mujeres inmigrantes narran los abusos y malos tratos de los que fueron víctimas en los centros de detención, asegurando no denunciaron a tiempo porque eran amenazadas con ser deportadas.
Grassroots Leadership In The News
Last June, activists in suburban Williamson County, Texas, had reason to celebrate. County commissioners had voted to terminate a contract with ICE for the privately-run T. Don Hutto Detention Center, a CoreCivic-run women’s facility for asylum seekers that has long been accused of rampant abuse. While there was no guarantee that the facility would close, it felt like county officials were finally listening to local residents and former detainees, and signaling an end to detention-for-profit practices in their community.
But Hutto remains open, thanks to a quiet agreement between ICE and CoreCivic. The county, and the city of Taylor where the detention center resides, have been indifferent while detainees continue to be locked up. And activists are appalled.
“We’ve been fighting for a long time, and we thought we were finally going to shut the place down after a decade,” says Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer with the Austin-based organization Grassroots Leadership, which has led efforts to close Hutto. A planned rally on Thursday at the Taylor City Council presents the next stage in this seemingly endless battle. Read more about Texas Activists Thought They’d Kicked ICE Out of Their County. Then a Secret Deal Happened.
An advocacy group for immigrants will hold a rally Thursday outside the Taylor City Council meeting Thursday to demand answers for why the T. Don Hutto Residential Center is still open after many reports of abuse, said one of the event’s organizers. The center is located in Taylor and holds detained immigrant women.
The Williamson County Commissioners Court ended their intergovernmental service agreement with the center at the end of January. CoreCivic owns and operates the center. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed a short-term contract extension with CoreCivic for the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to remain open beyond Jan. 31, according to a statement from Adelina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for ICE, which declined further comment. Read more about Advocacy group to hold rally in Taylor against immigrant detention facility
LIBERATION RALLY: At 9:30 a.m. hundreds of formerly incarcerated Texans, their families and advocates from across the state will gather at the Capitol to lobby for criminal justice reform. The event, called #kNOwMORE2019, was organized for a second year by members of Texas Advocates for Justice and Grassroots Leadership. Attendees will participate in legislative training, visit with elected representatives and rally on the South Steps of the building at 1 p.m. An art installation created by formerly incarcerated people will be on display in the North Central Gallery, and a spoken word performance will take place in the Main Rotunda at 12 p.m Read more about Hundreds of formerly incarcerated Texans rally at state Capitol
"It can be an intimidating experience. If you really feel comfortable with what you're saying and feel confident in the messages you're going to give to the council people then it gets easier." – Chris Harris, Grassroots Leadership Read more about Here's How To Get In Front Of Your Elected Officials And Tell Them What You Think
TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County will officially cut its ties after Thursday with an immigrant detention center in Taylor.
The county previously had an Intergovernmental Services Agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison company CoreCivic for the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which houses women detained at the border. In June 2018, the commissioners' court voted 4-1 to end those agreements by Jan. 31, 2019.
Grassroots Leadership, a group advocating for immigrant rights in Austin, hoped that the county's action would mean the facility would close by that date. However, it doesn't appear T. Don Hutto will shut its doors anytime soon. Read more about Williamson County agreement with ICE detention center ends Thursday
AUSTIN (KXAN) -- The system that provides lawyers for defendants who can't afford to hire one in Travis County is headed toward a possible overhaul, and the working group tasked with figuring out how to do it wants to hear from the public.
The group is hosting a "listening session" Wednesday night from 6:30-8 p.m. at 700 Lavaca Street. Members will hear from advocacy groups and other community members about what the public defender system should look like.
"Now is the time to really ask ourselves as a city, as a community, what are our values?" said Alicia Torres, a reform advocate working with ICE Out of Austin, an offshoot from the group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Group shaping future of county public defenders seeks public input
Immigrant rights activists organized a protest outside a local detention center over the weekend in support of a woman that was detained earlier this month.
The protesters primarily speaking out for Griselda Cruz Lopez.
She returned to the United States after being deported to her home country, El Salvador.
She fears for her Daughters life and claims that her abusive ex-partner, beats their daughter.
Cruz was arrested by immigration officials in Hidalgo, earlier this month.
Grassroots leadership, immigrant rights activist working with Griselda's attorney believe she is being wrongfully detained.
The Laredo Immigration Alliance was present, along with groups from Austin and San Antonio. Read more about Immigrant rights activists rally for Griselda Lopez
The 3rd Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit filed in 2016 by Grassroots Leadership, an Austin advocacy group, that sought to stop the facilities from being licensed by the Texas Department of Family Protection Services.
The nonprofit argues that by allowing the state to license detention centers as child care centers, it brings the facilities one step closer to being able to bypass the Flores Settlement Agreement, which prevents children from being detained longer than 20 days. The 20-day cap applies to secure, unlicensed facilities.
Texas tried to get around that ruling by attempting to license Karnes and Dilley as childcare facilities. An Austin advocacy group, Grassroots Leadership, and several detained mothers successfully sued in 2016 to block the facilities from being licensed.
That lawsuit was overturned on Nov. 28 by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, which said that the group and the detained mothers did not have legal standing to sue — thus opening the door for Texas to license Dilley and Karnes.
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said he feared that the ruling could lead to “long-term psychological and physical harm on children” detained there.
“Family detention centers are not childcare facilities,” he said. “The sole reason that the state wanted to license these private prisons as childcare facilities was to prolong the detention of children.” Read more about A court ruling may allow migrant families to be held indefinitely. These families know what that could be like.
After the flow of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America intensified beginning in 2014, the agency decided to help the centers – both among the country's largest and operated by private, for-profit firms (CoreCivic and GEO Group) – skirt the requirements of federal court rulings governing the detention of minors. Instead, DFPS adopted an emergency rule in 2015 that dubbed them "family residential centers" – a euphemism that belies their poor conditions – and only mandated minimal state standards for child welfare ("Child Care Center or Baby Jail?" March 18, 2016).
That rule hasn't been implemented because immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership filed suit in Travis County to block it, and in 2016 state District Judge Karin Crump issued an injunction against DFPS. ("Detention Is Not Child Care," Dec. 9, 2016). Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that ruling shortly afterward.
Now, thanks to the 3rd Court of Appeals, that injunction has been reversed. Read more about Court: Immigrant Detention Is Child Care
AUSTIN, TEXAS — The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block efforts to license immigrant detention sites holding women and children as daycare centers.
The Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, an advocate for immigrants, had filed the litigation in challenging efforts by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to license a pair of South Texas detention centers used to house undocumented immigrants as official daycare centers. Read more about Texas Ruling To Enable Daycare Licensing At Migrant Holding Sites
Texas' effort to license the facilities shortly after they opened was stopped in 2016 by an Austin judge.
But the 3rd Texas Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned the lower court. The appeals court said the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership and several parents who were detained in the facilities didn't have the legal standing to challenge the state agencies seeking to issue licenses.
Amy Warr, a lawyer for Grassroots Leadership, said the state couldn't move forward with licensing while appeals were still pending. Grassroots Leadership has two weeks to decide whether to seek a rehearing at the appeals court.
But the group's executive director, Bob Libal, said he was afraid the ruling may lead to "kids languishing in these prisons for years."
"If the parents of children who are harmed by the licensing of this detention center don't have standing, I'm not sure who does," Libal said.
A state appeals court on Wednesday tossed out a lawsuit challenging the state’s licensing of two family immigrant detention centers that hold women and children in South Texas.
The ruling by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals reversed a 2016 trial court judgment that ordered the state to refrain from licensing such facilities.
Since then, both detention centers have been allowed to remain open, though neither is technically licensed by the state.
Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit immigrant rights group, had challenged the emergency rule that allowed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to issue special licenses to the detention centers to keep them open, saying it allowed the centers to detain children for longer periods under lower standards of care.
“I think that it’s deeply troubling that the state of Texas and a court would determine that it is OK for there to be prolonged and even indefinite detention of children, which is the potential result of licensing these facilities,” the nonprofit’s executive director, Bob Libal, told the American-Statesman in response to the ruling. “You can always sort of tell the impact of a policy on the public good on how it impacts the private prison facilities’ bottom line. This is a ruling that is good for companies that want prolonged detention and bad for people with a public conscience.” Read more about Texas appeals court rejects challenge to immigrant detention centers
Claudia Muñoz, a backup member of the work group, assured the Commissioners Court during the Nov. 13 voting session that there were several individuals on the group, including herself, from minority racial and ethnic groups. Muñoz also urged the court to delay a decision on any of the group categories until it could vote on the group as a whole. “If this is going to succeed, we need to have all of the voices that will have impact at the table from the beginning,” she said. Read more about County finalizes Indigent Legal Services work group
Five-year-old Samantha cries inconsolably into the phone. She’s hurt and angry that her mother won’t come for her.
“They hit me really hard,” Samantha wails to her mother who, 1,000 miles away, feels utterly helpless. Melvin Griselda Cruz-Lopez, 46, is in an immigrant detention center in Texas, while Samantha is living with her father in Illinois. Griselda says this man, her ex, has physically abused them both.
“Why do they hit you?” Griselda asks about the vague “they.” In the past, her daughter has complained about family members on her father’s side hitting her too.
“Because, because, because I was bad,” Samantha responds. You can hear the desperation in the child’s voice as she pleads for her mother’s return. It pains Griselda that all she can do from detention is promise her daughter an endless supply of hugs when they reunite.
That phone call happened last December, recorded by Griselda and given to immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Griselda’s lawyer couldn’t say how many times the mother and daughter spoke after that call—only that they haven’t spoken in more than two months, since Griselda’s ex-partner cut off all contact. Read more about Trapped in ICE hell: Mother says her daughter is being abused while she’s in detention
The agreement sets out the pay for officers over the next four years. A 1 percent pay raise will go into effect next year, and then tick up by 2 percent every year after that. The department can also now hire officers based on more than simply a written exam – including an oral interview.
“I’m hard on the police department here and that’s only because I want them to be the best,” said Chris Harris, a data analyst with Grassroots Leadership who was part of a group of activists who sat down with police during negotiations. “We don’t have the perfect police department, but I think we damn sure have the best in the state of Texas.”
On Oct. 23, Travis County commissioners voted to send $125,000 to Integral Care's existing substance abuse initiatives, a seemingly positive move for a county with only one inpatient detox facility, lengthy treatment wait times, and decreasing investment in addiction efforts. But the way the county handled the decision has blindsided one of its community partners.
The funding request originated during the annual budget public hearing, which County Judge Sarah Eckhardt has described as letting "the taxpayers who are footing the bill" speak directly to the court. Local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership asked commissioners to send $450,000 to supplement a planned 24-hour opioid walk-in center so that the facility could treat people using all substances, not just opiates. This was part of ongoing discussions about a new $97 million women's jail and Grassroots' encouragement of jail diversion. Read more about Walk-In Walk-Out: County commissioners change course on substance abuse treatment funding
Immigration advocates are calling for the release of Melvin Griselda Cruz Lopez, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, from the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor. Lopez, who lived in the U.S. for a more than a decade before the threat of deportation, was separated from her 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, after her abusive ex-partner (and daughter's father) called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on her. Lopez now fears for her daughter's life, as that partner is her only active guardian. He has kept the girl isolated from her family nearby.
Lopez is an ideal candidate for a U visa, which protects survivors of domestic violence, but she never filed a police report out of fear of deportation, a worry that eventually materialized, underscoring the vulnerability of undocumented immigrants – especially women. Sofia Casini with Grassroots Leadership says the group has mounted a petition campaign to release Lopez, as public pressure is one of the most effective tools in attracting ICE's attention: "It's critical to remind ICE that the community is watching and holding them accountable."
If an APD officer wants to ask for someone's immigration status, that officer must notify the person that they don't need to answer.
Grassroots Leadership was one of the community groups pushing city council to require the APD change. Alicia Torres from Grassroots Leadership says it will allow them to hold APD accountable in their dealings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the organization responsible for deporting people in America illegally.
"We're actually going to be able to see how much the city collaborates with ICE," said Torres.
Grassroots Leadership staff tell KXAN most people deported by ICE in Texas get into the system after they're detained by police.
"If you're choosing to ask someone about their immigration status. Why? What prompted you to do it? To make sure it's not because I have an accent or I'm brown," said Torres.