Grassroots Leadership In The News

Aug 14, 2018
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KVUE

Immigration advocates to protest Taylor detention center possibly staying open

Tuesday morning, a group of Central Texans will be protesting the possibility of a detention center in Williamson County remaining open.

TAYLOR, Texas — A group of Central Texans plan to protest the possibility of a detention center in Williamson County remaining open.

Less than two months ago, Williamson County Commissioners voted 4-1 to end the contract with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, forcing it to close down on Jan. 31, 2019. The detention center, which has been around for 15 years, houses detained immigrant women. Now the immigration rights group, Grassroots Leadership, claims ICE is trying to keep it open.

Grassroots Leadership made the allegations after federal immigration officials issued a request last week for information from contractors capable of running a 500-bed detention facility for women within 50 miles of Austin. Before commissioners voted in June to close this center, protesters gathered outside the courthouse, citing abuse allegations and recent controversy about children being separated from their parents after entering the country.

The commissioners said one of the reasons they decided to close this center was to end the county's involvement on a federal issue. Read more about Immigration advocates to protest Taylor detention center possibly staying open

Aug 13, 2018
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KVUE

Travis County wants to improve conditions for women in jail with new facility

The Statesman reports that Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said a new facility is needed because the current one is in poor condition.

AUSTIN — After months of debate and reconsideration, funding for a new Travis County jail for women is once again on the agenda.

In March, the Commissioners Court postponed a decision to spend $6.6 million to design the facility. That's because critics wanted the county to expand jail diversion programs like mental health and substance abuse services instead, according to our partners at the Austin American-Statesman.

But the Statesman reports that Sheriff Sally Hernandez said a new facility is needed because the current one is in poor condition, and sometimes, women have to walk through the men's area. In the new 2018 plan, the Statesman said the facility would add classrooms for "gender-specific programming" and a satellite clinic for women's health issues, eliminating the need for correctional officers escorting inmates through other buildings. Read more about Travis County wants to improve conditions for women in jail with new facility

Jul 27, 2018
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The Texas Monitor

Another citizen review board for Austin police in the works

Since June, a working group has been meeting quietly to discuss what kind of public oversight is needed for the Austin Police Department.

The group is working to rebuild from the wreckage of the Citizen Review Panel, suspended after 17 years when the City Council in December rejected the police labor agreement that has always included the terms of the panel’s authority.

Chris Harris, a member of the working group and an organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a local prison reform non-profit, told The Texas Monitor the issue is whether or not the police department will concede to citizens a voice in how they are policed.

“If you look at the history of the Citizens Review Panel, I think you’ll find that multiple chiefs over the years have been very comfortable ignoring it,” Harris said. Read more about Another citizen review board for Austin police in the works

Jul 27, 2018
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The Storm Media

收拾美國「零容忍」爛攤》移民團聚大限已至!近700名孩童仍與家長分離

移民處理混亂 家長完全與外界斷絕聯繫

美國公民自由聯盟24日也在法庭上提出,重新團圓的移民家庭應該擁有7天的「等待期」,使他們能與律師會面,得以在遣返之前充分得知他們的權利,討論他們的未來方向,而不只是立即遣返。此案尚待法官27日開庭裁決。

美國政府處理移民的混亂方式,引發美國公民團體撻伐。在德州奧斯汀(Austin)非營利組織「草根領導」(Grassroots Leadership)工作的卡森(Bethany Carson)指出,近幾周來,數百位家長送到德州伊莎貝爾港(Port Isabel)拘留所,等待與孩子見面,然而有些家長等了一個星期,仍等不到孩子,這段時間內更不能洗澡、打電話,或是參與宗教活動。卡森說道:「他們完全與外界斷絕聯繫,政府官員們竟然說他們是自由的。」 Read more about 收拾美國「零容忍」爛攤》移民團聚大限已至!近700名孩童仍與家長分離

Jul 27, 2018
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Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Border reunions meet deadline, U.S. reports, but hundreds of parents deemed ineligible

CHAOS ON THE GROUND

The reunifications have unfolded in chaotic scenes across the country. Many have been concentrated in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where families have been funneled into federal offices that were designated as "staging facilities," overwhelming area resources to the extent that some parents have had to wait days after arriving to rejoin their children.

At one such facility in south Texas, the Port Isabel Detention Center, the government has been labeling some parents as "released" while they are still in custody, according to Bethany Carson, who works for Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit advocacy group in Austin. Read more about Border reunions meet deadline, U.S. reports, but hundreds of parents deemed ineligible

Jul 26, 2018
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The New York Times

With Deadline Hours Away, Authorities Scramble to Reunite Migrant Families

The federal government was rushing on Thursday to reunite the last 1,634 migrant families separated at the Southwest border who have been deemed “eligible” for reunification, in the final hours of a court-ordered scramble to reverse a contentious immigration policy that drew international condemnation.

At one such facility in South Texas, the Port Isabel Detention Center, the government has been labeling some parents as “released” while they are still in custody, according to Bethany Carson, who works for Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit advocacy group in Austin.

Ms. Carson said that hundreds of parents were sent to Port Isabel this week after receiving word in the middle of the night from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that their children were there. When they arrived, the parents quickly changed into street clothes and were broken into groups of about 70 to wait in rooms to rejoin their children.

Some waited up to a week, Ms. Carson said, and were not allowed access to showers, phones or religious services, while efforts stalled to return their children.

“They’re completely cut off from the outside world,” she said. “And officials are saying they’re free.” Read more about With Deadline Hours Away, Authorities Scramble to Reunite Migrant Families

Jul 26, 2018
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The Los Angeles Times

Family separation crisis continues on border even as court-ordered deadline nears

The calls for help started coming in to immigration lawyers across the country just before Memorial Day. Immigrant detainees, many fleeing gangs and violence and seeking legal asylum in the U.S., were flooding courtrooms along the Southwest border. 

Dozens were parents reporting that Border Patrol agents had taken away their children, and many were under the impression they would see their sons and daughters again within hours.

“It’s been incredibly hard to figure out how to get this family out,” Aranda said.

Other advocates said they hadn’t been allowed on the grounds of some shelters, hurting their access to families. “Some are told to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a week but may not understand what to do to avoid being detained again,” said Bethany Carson, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. Read more about Family separation crisis continues on border even as court-ordered deadline nears

Jul 26, 2018
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United Press International

7 in 10 migrant children reunited with parents by Thursday's deadline

Family reunifications are taking place mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas at so-called "staging facilities." Parents and children are being taking to these locations to reunite, but in some cases, the adults are made to wait up to a week without access to showers or phones, Bethany Carson, who works for the non-profit Grassroots Leadership, told The New York Times.

"They're completely cut off from the outside world," she said. "And officials are saying they're free."

In some cases, children have been sent to the wrong facility because of logistical errors, a government official told the Times. Read more about 7 in 10 migrant children reunited with parents by Thursday's deadline

Jul 23, 2018
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La prensa grafica

Ser víctima de violencia doméstica o de pandillas ya no justificará asilo en EUA

“Es un ataque directo, manipulado, al proceso de asilo”, expresó Sofía Casini, de la agrupación sin fines de lucro Grassroots Leadership, de Austin, Texas, que trabaja con mujeres inmigrantes retenidas en el vecino centro de detención T. Don Hutto, las cuales fueron separadas de sus hijos en cumplimiento de una política que fue condenada desde casi todos los sectores antes de ser interrumpida el 20 de junio.


Casini dijo que de las aproximadamente 35 mujeres con las que trabaja su grupo, más de una tercera parte no sobrevivieron a la entrevista en la que deben demostrar temores justificados de ser blanco de violencia si regresan.

Afirma que esto representa el doble que antes de que se implementaran las nuevas pautas. A nivel nacional, más de 2.000 menores y sus padres deben reunirse tras haber sido separados, incluida Aragón y su hija, que está alojada en un refugio para menores de Nueva York y cuyo futuro es tan incierto como el de su madre. Read more about Ser víctima de violencia doméstica o de pandillas ya no justificará asilo en EUA

Jul 22, 2018
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The Texas Tribune

Incommunicado at Bayview Detention Center: Migrant parents await reunification in seclusion

Bethany Carson, an immigration researcher and organizer with Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization critical of "mass incarceration" and deportation, spoke to two migrants at Port Isabel Saturday. She said they’re being told they’re in a transitory state — “not detained in that place anymore,” but not yet moved to a church or family detention center with their children. 

“They're treating them like they're processed out of the facility already but they're still there,” Carson said. “They're still locked up. They're still detained. They can't leave. So all they've done is take away their communication and all of the other things that, according to detention standards, they have rights to.” 

In a statement Monday, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok said federal agencies are "working tirelessly to reunite parents and children within the court ordered timeline." 

"In order to facilitate more efficient reunification of family units going forward, ICE has leveraged additional resources to enhance processing capacity for adults/parents held" at Port Isabel, Rusnok said. Most children brought to the facility are "reunified with their parents within a few hours of their arrival.”  Read more about Incommunicado at Bayview Detention Center: Migrant parents await reunification in seclusion

Jul 21, 2018
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World Socialist Web Site

Media, #MeToo silent on widespread sexual assault of detained immigrants

Lost among the wall-to-wall press coverage of allegations of Russian interference in US politics is a recent revelation that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received 1,310 reports of rape and sexual assault of immigrant detainees by ICE officials between 2013 and 2017 alone.

Cristina Parker, communications director for the Texas immigrant rights nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the World Socialist Web Site: “It’s terrible to say, but this report doesn’t shock me. Those of us who know these facilities thought, ‘That’s about right.’ It’s a common thing we hear. It’s been a problem. It’s not just at [T. Don] Hutto [detention center], it’s endemic and pervasive in the system.”

The corporate media has largely ignored the reports of widespread rape and sexual abuse by US immigration officials. The New York Times buried Kassie’s video shortly after it was published, while the Washington Post made only a passing reference to it at the conclusion of an article summarizing the day’s news. Otherwise, the story was not covered in the bourgeois press. The fascistic abuse of immigrants has been drowned out by the hysterical anti-Russia campaign dominating the airwaves.

“It’s disturbing that this doesn’t get more coverage and isn’t met with more outrage,” Parker said. “The media is more interested in the reality television show that is our current federal administration and not the impact that it’s having on individuals and human beings on the border. Even though immigration has fallen off the national radar, only a fraction of the children separated from their parents have been reunited. The detention system is operating at a mass scale.” Read more about Media, #MeToo silent on widespread sexual assault of detained immigrants

Jul 20, 2018
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Nonprofit Quarterly

Nonprofits on the Border: What Reunification Can Take

Reina Isabella and her 17-year-old daughter, Diana, were separated at the US-Mexico border for more than 40 days. Fleeing violence in El Salvador, the two were met with more violence and ruthlessness at the border, forcibly separated. Reina was brought to a detention facility 300 miles away from where she and her child crossed the border, and Reina was not told where her daughter was and was not able to communicate with her.

Only through the work of the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership was Reina able to apply for asylum and be reunited with Diana. The nonprofit paid her $1,500 bond, located Diana in Brownsville, Texas, and negotiated a visit a few hours long. Despite proving to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that Reina had a place for her and Diana to stay waiting for their asylum case, the Department would not release Diana. With nowhere to stay in southern Texas, Grassroots Leadership paid for a motel for Reina as she waited for the caseworkers to release Diana. Finally, through the work of Reina and her partnership with Grassroots Leadership, the pair were reunited.

Advocates working with migrant families wonder how the federal government can expect parents to navigate the reunification process on their own. Claudia Muños, director of the immigration programs at Grassroots Leadership has seen how much support Reina had, and how difficult it was for her to be reunited with only one child. The organization has threatened to camp outside shelters after federal officials showed little interest in reuniting two other mothers with their children. Without their advocacy and service, Reina and Diana could still be hundreds of miles apart. Read more about Nonprofits on the Border: What Reunification Can Take

Jul 17, 2018
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LinkTV

Immigration Detention is Profitable for Private Prisons

There is an abundant opportunity in border protection, an area in which the U.S. government has been increasing spending nonstop for almost two decades.  The U.S. Government has spent $263 billion on immigration enforcement since 1986, according to a report by the American Immigration Council. That kind of spending has no precedent in the history of the country.

Detention is a big part of that, particularly since 2009 when Congress first passed a mandate to maintain funding for no less than 33,400 detention beds, known as the "detention bed quota".

That quota has since increased to 34,000 and the Trump Administration is seeking to up it yet again.

Since its implementation in 2009, the immigration bed quota have increased the private share of the immigrant detention industry, according to a report by Grassroots Leadership, an activist group critical of the industry. Read more about Immigration Detention is Profitable for Private Prisons

Jul 16, 2018
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The New York Times

'Credible Fear' for US Asylum Harder to Prove Under Trump

As part of the Trump administration's broader crackdown on immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently tightened the restrictions on the types of cases that can qualify someone for asylum, making it harder for Central Americans who say they're fleeing the threat of gangs, drug smugglers or domestic violence to pass even the first hurdle for securing U.S. protection.

"This is a direct, manipulated attack on the asylum process," said Sofia Casini of the Austin non-profit Grassroots Leadership, which has been working with immigrant women held at the nearby T. Don Hutto detention center who were separated from their kids under a widely condemned policy that President Donald Trump ended on June 20.

Casini said that of the roughly 35 separated mothers her group worked with, more than a third failed their credible fear interviews, which she said is about twice the failure rate of before the new restrictions took effect. Nationally, more than 2,000 immigrant children and parents have yet to be reunited, including Aragon and her daughter, who is being held at a New York children's shelter and whose future is as unclear as her mother's. Read more about 'Credible Fear' for US Asylum Harder to Prove Under Trump

Jul 16, 2018
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The Detroit News

‘Credible fear’ for US asylum harder to prove

As part of the Trump administration’s broader crackdown on immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently tightened the restrictions on the types of cases that can qualify someone for asylum, making it harder for Central Americans who say they’re fleeing the threat of gangs, drug smugglers or domestic violence to pass even the first hurdle for securing U.S. protection.

“This is a direct, manipulated attack on the asylum process,” said Sofia Casini of the Austin non-profit Grassroots Leadership, which has been working with immigrant women held at the nearby T. Don Hutto detention center who were separated from their kids under a widely condemned policy that President Donald Trump ended on June 20.

Casini said that of the roughly 35 separated mothers her group worked with, more than a third failed their credible fear interviews, which she said is about twice the failure rate of before the new restrictions took effect. Nationally, more than 2,000 immigrant children and parents have yet to be reunited, including Aragon and her daughter, who is being held at a New York children’s shelter and whose future is as unclear as her mother’s. Read more about ‘Credible fear’ for US asylum harder to prove

Jul 14, 2018
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Huffington Post

I’m Camping Out In Front Of A ‘Tender Age’ Shelter With My Son. Here’s What I’ve Seen.

In June, once school let out in rural Dutchess County, New York, I packed up my 7-year-old son and drove 2,054 miles to the Texas-Mexico border. I needed to see with my own eyes what is happening to migrant children separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s escalated “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Last Saturday, we met a mother, Lesvia, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala with her son, Yudem, almost two months ago. She was taken into custody 56 days ago and finally released from the T. Don Hutto immigration detention center in Taylor, Texas, on Thursday. She was driven to Brownsville by representatives of the Austin-based organization Grassroots Leadership, who had advocated for her release, to have a one-hour visit with 10-year-old Yudem, who is being held at Casa El Presidente. She hadn’t seen or spoken to him in over a month. She sobbed as she was led away from our tent while CNN’s news cameras surrounded her. Read more about I’m Camping Out In Front Of A ‘Tender Age’ Shelter With My Son. Here’s What I’ve Seen.

Jul 13, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Moms Describe Anguish in Letters From Inside the Hutto Detention Facility

From the inside of T. Don Hutto deten­tion facility in Taylor, nearly two dozen women are pleading to be reunited with their children in letters that describe the pain, helplessness, and trauma they and their children are feeling. The facility northeast of Austin houses at least 35 asylum-seeking women who were subjected to the family separation policy. In letters compiled by advocacy group Grassroots Leadershipand translated from Spanish, several women say officials lied to them about when they would see their children again, a maneuver to usher them to detention centers. Several women describe poor conditions at various facilities in Texas as they were being shuffled around: One says a guard threatened her with an "electric shock" and another, who is HIV-positive, says the facility withheld medicine from her.

At Hutto, eight of the 35 asylum-seeking women have been released on bond, but only one has been reunited with her children, as of press time. "Other women are still very upset. I think seeing a few women released is giving a little bit of hope, but it's mostly a feeling of desperation," says Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Moms Describe Anguish in Letters From Inside the Hutto Detention Facility

Jul 13, 2018
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Boingboing

A stunning amount of red tape is keeping detainee families from reuniting

Mario knows where his daughter is—they’re both in El Paso, Texas—but he’s not allowed to see her. Before they have the opportunity to permanently come back together as a family once again, the U.S. government’s got a ton of hoops that they want Mario to jump through. The common thread: he needs to prove that he’s his daughter’s father. Last month, Mario and his legal representative were working to get his passport back from the FBI, as it had been taken from him when he was taken into custody at the border. This week, he’s waiting to be fingerprinted. That each step of the process to get his daughter back is being handled by a different government organization only serves to slow things down. Similar stories are playing out with other families as well. Claudia Muñoz, is the immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group that opposes for-profit immigrant detention centers. From what she told the Texas Tribune’s Julián Aguilar, the level of red tape that detainees are having to cut through in order to get back their kids is at a level where one has to start to wonder whether the government actually wants families to be reunited. Hmmmm… Read more about A stunning amount of red tape is keeping detainee families from reuniting

Jul 13, 2018
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Texas Observer

‘Recipe for Disaster’: New Family Detention Center Could Open in South Texas

Trump’s desire to jail thousands of immigrant families for months at a time has rekindled an economic romance between a tiny South Texas county and a British security megafirm.

But family detention itself has long been the focus of controversy. Immigrants have described horrific conditions at for-profit lockups, and human rights organizations have condemned family detention as traumatizing, especially to children — hardly a humanitarian alternative to separations. 

“It’s trading one system of abuse of children for another,” said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin group that fights private prisons. “And the Trump administration’s plan is indefinite detention, meaning parents and children could be detained for years.” Read more about ‘Recipe for Disaster’: New Family Detention Center Could Open in South Texas

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