Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jul 2, 2018
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Los Angeles Times

'I love you so much, my child. ... I'm sending you hugs'

The nonprofit Grassroots Leadership collected letters from mothers who were separated from their children at the U.S. border and provided English translations. The Austin, Texas-based nonprofit asked that the women's last names and identifying information be redacted. In some cases, women asked that their first names also be redacted. Read more about 'I love you so much, my child. ... I'm sending you hugs'

Jul 2, 2018
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The Nation

Cities Are Saying ‘No’ to ICE by Canceling Their Contracts With the Agency

In clear-eyed recognition of the limits of existing sanctuary-city policies, the City of Austin decided this month to go a step further. The City declared itself a “Freedom City” on June 15, enacting legislation that will both discourage police officers from conducting arrests for minor offenses and require them to inform detainees that they aren’t legally required to answer questions about their immigration status.

"Anyone arrested even for a low-level offense could potentially face indefinite detention and deportation” says Chris Harris, a campaign coordinator and data scientist for Grassroots Leadership, one of the coalition members behind the legislation. “These are overlapping systems of oppression, so limiting encounters with law enforcement can address both.” Read more about Cities Are Saying ‘No’ to ICE by Canceling Their Contracts With the Agency

Jul 2, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to hold prayer service at Taylor detention facility

Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church who spoke at the royal wedding in May, is holding a prayer service noon Sunday at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor.

The prayer service is part of Curry’s trip to Austin for the church’s General Convention, according to a news release.

Grassroots Leadership, a group that has strongly advocated closing the detention center, also played a role in organizing the prayer service. Read more about Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to hold prayer service at Taylor detention facility

Jul 1, 2018
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NPR

Update On Migrant Women Detained In Texas

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer for the nonprofit group Grassroots Leadership, about immigrant women detained without their children.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you or do these women know or does the government know where these children may be?

CARSON: Some of them know where their children are. They've told they've been sent to places as far away as New York. Most of them have not been able to communicate on any kind of a regular basis with their kids. Some still have no idea where they are and are writing us letters, saying, please help us find my child. I haven't talked to them for almost a month. I have no idea where they are. Read more about Update On Migrant Women Detained In Texas

Jun 30, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Thousands rally at Capitol to protest family border separations

Marilú Fructuoso wiped a tear from her eye as she talked about the mothers she met at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor crying for their children.

An immigrant from Mexico, Fructuoso said she came to the U.S. 12 years ago to give her children a better life. Today, she volunteers with the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership to help unauthorized immigrants who have been detained gain their freedom. Read more about Thousands rally at Capitol to protest family border separations

Jun 29, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Nonprofits seeking help for immigrant families

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, has been working in this field for 15 years. “The fight is harder today,” said Libal. “The idea that the policy of the United States government would be to rip kids from parents’ arms in order to criminally prosecute their parents at the border is in some ways beyond what we’ve seen.”

Grassroots Leadership had a sort of victory this past week, engaging hundreds of activists over the course of months to pressure Williamson County to end its contract with ICE and the for-profit company that operates the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a facility in Taylor that houses detained migrant women. Commissioners cited a desire to end the county’s involvement in a federal issue as the reason to terminate the contract.

While the vote means Williamson County will exit the contract in 2019, ICE can still contract directly with the for-profit company to run the facility. “But it’s a step in the right direction,” said Libal.

To help more women leave the detention centers, Grassroots Leadership recently established a charitable fund so donors could help contribute to paying the bonds, which can be between $1,500 and $10,000. Read more about Nonprofits seeking help for immigrant families

Jun 29, 2018
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The Press Herald

Private prison operators could cash in on ‘zero tolerance’

The biggest private prison operators, which have poured money into Republican coffers, stand to make a windfall from President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that has pushed thousands of undocumented immigrants into detention.

“If we have moral panic around certain issues, like drugs, or immigration, then we have more people getting locked up,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots executive director. “Apprehensions at the southern border are at 15-year lows, but the number of people being criminally prosecuted has spiked dramatically.” Read more about Private prison operators could cash in on ‘zero tolerance’

Jun 28, 2018
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Truthdig

Local Governments Cut Contracts With ICE Over Immigrant Policies

Cities around the country are responding to President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy by canceling what The New York Times reports can be lucrative contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide housing facilities and services for detainees.

In one major victory for immigrant rights activists, commissioners in conservative Williamson County, Texas, voted earlier this week to cut ties with a 500-bed facility owned by CoreCivic, which housed mothers who had been separated from their children. Sofia Casini, an organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership, told the Times that while the group had been fighting against the facility for months, children torn from their families “really touched a different kind of community nerve.” Read more about Local Governments Cut Contracts With ICE Over Immigrant Policies

Jun 28, 2018
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The Nation

Another Way to Keep Families Together: Join the New Sanctuary Movement

1. Find Your Community. It’s important to remember that you probably don’t need to start from scratch. Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance there’s already an organization involved in the immigrant-rights or sanctuary movement nearby.

As you’re making your connections, keep in mind that “it doesn’t have to be physical sanctuary” that you offer, as Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based multi-pronged advocacy network, explained. You can hold Know Your Rights workshops, phone-bank members of Congress to pressure them to oppose anti-immigrant legislation and pass legislation that protects immigrants, or hold educational events to learn about the US immigration system and why people are migrating or fleeing. Read more about Another Way to Keep Families Together: Join the New Sanctuary Movement

Jun 27, 2018
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Bustle

Texas' Williamson County Will Close An Immigrant Women's Prison — But Says That's Not Enough

There’s some good news when it comes to immigration matters in the Lone Star State. On Tuesday, KXAN reported Williamson County in Texas voted to close a prison for immigrant women — an infamous ICE-affiliated detention facility that has previously been accused of overlooking sexual abuse.

Last year, immigration activist group Grassroots Leadership accused the Williamson County Sheriff's Office of failing to adequately look into detainee Laura Monterrosa's accusations of sexual violence. Monterrosa alleged that a T. Don Hutto prison guard had been sexually assaulting her since June 2017. Read more about Texas' Williamson County Will Close An Immigrant Women's Prison — But Says That's Not Enough

Jun 27, 2018
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Independent

Texas county ends immigrant detention contract amid Trump family separation controversy

Texas county has voted to end its contract with a privately run immigrant detention facility as reverberations from President Donald Trump’s controversial policy to separate immigrant families at the border have made their way through American communities and, now, potentially impacted the bottom line of private prison corporations profiting from the incarceration of immigrants.

“This is very much in response to everything that has been going on,” Cristina Parker, the communications director for the immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said of the Williamson County decision to cut ties with ICE, which are scheduled to take effect on 31 January. 

Ms Parker noted that protests at the facility, which opened in 2006, have not been uncommon.

“I think with everything that has been hitting the news lately – I think it has all sort of crescendoed today into the county feeling that they had to get out of the contract,” Ms Parker said. Read more about Texas county ends immigrant detention contract amid Trump family separation controversy

Jun 27, 2018
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Teen Vogue

A Texas County Is Ending Its Contract With ICE

According to NBC affiliate KXAN, commissioners of Williamson County, located approximately 40 miles north of capital city Austin, voted 4-1 on Tuesday to end its Intergovernmental Services Agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding its operations at T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. The contract will expire on January 31, 2019.

More than just the Trump administration’s policy and the anonymously penned letter led to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center’s demise: Immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership communications director Cristina Parker told The Independent that several detainees have alleged that they were sexually abused by the center’s guards. Read more about A Texas County Is Ending Its Contract With ICE

Jun 27, 2018
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San Antonio Current

Texas Suburb Votes to End Contract with Immigration Detention Center

A conservative Texas suburb severed ties with a 500-bed immigration detention center on Tuesday, after years of immigrant-rights groups fighting to shut the facility down. 

The Tuesday vote comes amid claims that the T. Don Hutto Residential Center outside of Austin houses mothers who have been separated from their children by ICE. Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit civil and human rights organization, claims that the center houses almost 500 women, about 40 being mothers who have not had contact with their children since their detainment. 

Sofia Casini, a campaign organizer for Grassroots Leadership, said that the issue "really touched a different kind of community nerve."

"We told them there are mothers inside Hutto," she told the Associated Press. Read more about Texas Suburb Votes to End Contract with Immigration Detention Center

Jun 27, 2018
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Blavity

Texas County That’s Had Enough Of ICE’s Inhumanity Cancels DHS' Contract For Detention Center Holding 500 Women

Amid the rollercoaster ride known as the Trump administration zero tolerance immigration policy, a Texas county has decided to end its contract with ICE, which has an immigrant detention center in the community. 

According to The Independent, Williamson County commissioners voted on Tuesday to terminate the county's contract with ICE, which heads the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. The facility, which opened in 2006, holds about 500 women. About 45 of those women are mothers who were separated from their children by ICE agents. 

“This is very much in response to everything that has been going on,” said Cristina Parker, the communications director for the immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Texas County That’s Had Enough Of ICE’s Inhumanity Cancels DHS' Contract For Detention Center Holding 500 Women

Jun 27, 2018
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rabble.ca

How to help on the ground in Texas and California

Here is a list of six groups that are looking for donations and qualified volunteers:

3)  Grassroots Leadership is a southwestern organization, based in Austin, that is supporting mothers separated from their children every step of the way, including paying to bond them out of detention so they can reunite with their families, facilitating calls with their children and loved ones, and fighting their criminal charges. They are also organizing many of the women who have been released but have not yet been reunited with their children as promised; these women are willing to lead the fight to win deportation cases and reunite with their children. They also work on ending for profit prisons which is at the root of this as Penney Kome details for rabble.ca. You can donate to their Community Deportation Defense & Bond Fund hereRead more about How to help on the ground in Texas and California

Jun 27, 2018
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The Texas Observer

New 1,000-Bed ICE Lockup Set to Open on Site of Notorious ‘Tent City’ in South Texas

In March 2017, Willacy County dropped its lawsuit against MTC after the company agreed to both buy the correctional facility and pay off the county’s debt. MTC also agreed to pay the county $3 per inmate per day if the facility were ever to open again, according to the Valley Morning Star.

MTC’s purchase of the facility last year was part of a “private prison rush,” according to Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights private prisons. “[Companies] bought empty or under-capacity facilities in an effort to cash in on the Trump gold rush,” Libal said. “Now, we’re starting to see that horrible reality play out.” Read more about New 1,000-Bed ICE Lockup Set to Open on Site of Notorious ‘Tent City’ in South Texas

Jun 26, 2018
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Round Rock Patch

Williamson County Ends Contract With Immigration Detention Site

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." Read more about Williamson County Ends Contract With Immigration Detention Site

Jun 26, 2018
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FOX 7 Austin

WilCo Commissioners Court vote to terminate detention center agreement

A large group gathered outside of the Williamson County courthouse Tuesday morning before the commissioners court meeting.

It was more of a pre-celebration rally than a protest; anticipation of a vote regarding the T. Don Hutto Immigration Detention Center. Activists like Claudia Munoz have spent years trying to shut it down.

“We know that about 40 women who were separated from their children at the border recently are now being held at Hutto, and I think as we learn more and more about everything that happens at Hutto, from sexual abuse to mothers been separated, community members don’t want to see this prison existing in Taylor anymore,” said Munoz who is with a group called Grassroots Leadership. Read more about WilCo Commissioners Court vote to terminate detention center agreement

Jun 26, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Williamson commissioners to end contract with detention center

The Williamson County commissioners have voted to terminate the county’s contracts with ICE and CoreCivic at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor on Jan. 31, 2019.

“Thank you for voting; you did the right thing legally, you did the right thing morally,” said Sofia Casini, the coordinator of the visitation program that the nonprofit Grassroots Advocacy group has been running to visit women at the detention center. Casinia said the detention center needed to be shut down.

The move by the commissioners comes a week after President Donald Trump ordered a halt to the recent practice of separating families entering the United States illegally. The Austin-based civil and human rights nonprofit group Grassroots Leadership said the women detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center have not been told about when or if they will be reunited with their children.

Representatives from GrassRoots Leadership and other community members asked the county commissioners this spring to address issues at the detention center. The group also asked Sheriff Robert Chody to investigate sexual assault allegations at the facility. Chody has said he referred the issue to the FBI. Read more about Williamson commissioners to end contract with detention center

Jun 26, 2018
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My Champlain Valley

Texas suburb ends contract with immigrant detention center

A conservative Texas suburb voted Tuesday to sever ties with a 500-bed immigration detention center that activists say is currently housing some mothers who don't know the whereabouts of their children.

Sofia Casini, a campaign organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership that has worked with mothers in the facility, said they had been pressing commissioners for months but said the current crisis "really touched a different kind of community nerve."

"We told them there are mothers inside Hutto," she said. Read more about Texas suburb ends contract with immigrant detention center

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