Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jul 6, 2018
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Texas Observer

Despite Protests, Willacy County Forges Ahead with Resurrection of Notorious Immigrant Detention Center

County Commissioner Eliberto Guerra also told the Observer he wasn’t worried about another riot because, unlike in 2015, the facility would be holding civil immigrant detainees instead of immigrants serving criminal sentences.

Guerra emphasized the need for the prison guard jobs in Raymondville. Willacy County, population 22,000, has a poverty rate of 38 percent. He added that the county stands to earn as much as $930,000 a year in administrative fees from the contract, plus additional taxes.

But critics weren’t convinced. Norma Herrera, criminal justice organizer for the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the commissioners during public comment that MTC had already proven itself unable to provide “sustainable jobs.” During its nine years in Willacy County, MTC was effectively shut down on two occasions for alleged mismanagement. Read more about Despite Protests, Willacy County Forges Ahead with Resurrection of Notorious Immigrant Detention Center

Jul 5, 2018
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Carbonated.TV

In Letters, Immigrant Mothers Beg: ‘Return Our Children’

Immigrant mothers whose children were forcefully taken from them at the border are begging for help. And the non-profit civil rights organization Grassroots Leadership is now amplifying their calls for mercy by publishing their letters.

When President Donald Trump’s attorney general announced the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, separating families who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, a great outcry pushed Trump to later change his tune. He eventually signed an executive order in what appeared to be an attempt to stop the separation policy. Still, 2,053 children had already been forcefully ripped apart from their parents, and only 538 have been reunited so far.

As attorneys and volunteers from Grassroots Leadership try to help these mothers and children, reporters published some of the letters written by these women. Since many involve mothers who are asking for asylum, not all women were identified. Read more about In Letters, Immigrant Mothers Beg: ‘Return Our Children’

Jul 4, 2018
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CNN

'They treated us as though we were animals': Letters from inside an immigration detention facility

"They treated us so horribly, as though we were animals," she wrote in the letter, in which she called herself "anonimo," anonymous.

The account came via Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that describes itself as "a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization" that fights to "end prison profiteering, mass incarceration, and deportation." The group, which is circulating a petition to reunite separated families, posted the letter on its website on June 25. Four days later, the group posted several more accounts from women who had been separated from their children. 

Grassroots Leadership volunteers met with the women in T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, organizer Bethany N. Carson told CNN. Those volunteers spoke to the women about writing the letters and "helped them figure out how to get the letters out," she said in an email. 

"They were written to tell their experience publicly to ask for help in being released from detention and reunited with their children," Carson said. Read more about 'They treated us as though we were animals': Letters from inside an immigration detention facility

Jul 4, 2018
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Bustle

These Letters From Migrant Women In Detention Centers Are Gut-Wrenching To Read

In often gut-wrenching narratives, detained migrant women are speaking out about the heartache caused by the Trump administration's policy of separating families apprehended at the border. Letters from more than a dozen migrant womencurrently being held in immigration detention centers are being made public by the nonprofit human rights organization Grassroots Leadership. Written by women detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, the letters give readers a glimpse into life inside an immigration detention facility and the anguish and distress that plagues a mother torn away from her child.

Grassroots Leadership has recently published a total of 18 letters — some addressed to Grassroots Leadership organizers and others addressed to the women's children — which were written by 16 migrant women currently being detained in Texas. According to the nonprofit, the motivation behind each letter varied; some were attempts to shine a light on the conditions inside detention centers, others were simply desperate please for help.

"They were written to tell their experience publicly, to ask for help in being released from detention, and reunited with their children," Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher and organizer for Grassroots Leadership, told CNN. Read more about These Letters From Migrant Women In Detention Centers Are Gut-Wrenching To Read

Jul 3, 2018
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Quartz

These child abuses shut down Obama’s family detention policy. Trump is resurrecting it.

Detention ≠ child wellbeing

Family detention is incompatible with child welfare, immigrant advocates say. “The idea of having a place where children are in prison… that could never be made in such a way that would be appropriate,” said Cristina Parker, a spokeswoman for Grassroots Leadership, a group that fought against the Obama administration’s family detention policy. Read more about These child abuses shut down Obama’s family detention policy. Trump is resurrecting it.

Jul 3, 2018
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The Herald

Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment

Last week, the Los Angeles Times asked volunteers and attorneys visiting detained immigrant parents in Texas to convey written questions. More than a dozen mothers at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, 30 miles north of Austin, responded. Volunteers from the local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership shared their letters with The Times, identifying the women by first name because some of their asylum claims are still pending.

Over the weekend, mothers at Hutto — many of whom have applied for asylum — told volunteers from Grassroots Leadership that they had been notified by immigration officials to prepare for transfer to a temporary detention center at Fort Bliss Army post outside El Paso for reunification with their children and deportation.

Despite concerns about the possibility of being deported, in their notes to their children, the mothers tried to stay positive. Read more about Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment

Jul 2, 2018
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Los Angeles Times

'We beg you to help us': Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment and share fears about their children

Last week, The Times asked volunteers and attorneys visiting detained immigrant parents in Texas to convey written questions. More than a dozen mothers at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, 30 miles north of Austin, responded. Volunteers from local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership shared their letters with The Times, identifying the women by first name because some of their asylum claims are still pending.

Over the weekend, mothers at Hutto — many of whom have applied for asylum — told volunteers from Grassroots Leadership that they had been notified by immigration officials to prepare for transfer to a temporary detention center at Fort Bliss Army post outside El Paso for reunification with their children and deportation.

Despite concerns about the possibility of being deported, in their notes to their children, the mothers tried to stay positive.

“I miss you a lot, I love you and we will be together soon,” Noyma wrote to her son. “I don’t want you to be sad.” Read more about 'We beg you to help us': Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment and share fears about their children

Jul 2, 2018
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Southside Pride

Legacy of Hope

Last week on Wednesday I got an email that gave me hope. It showed what people who have compassion and goodness—and just plain human decency—can do when they get organized. The email came from Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, and was forwarded by the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) here in Minneapolis. County commissioners in the Texas county of Williamson voted 4-1 to end their contract with the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center. Formerly detained women, advocates, members of the faith community and Williamson County residents in the Shut Down Hutto Coalition had put public pressure on the Williamson County Commissioners Court for months in order to achieve this step forward. Read more about Legacy of Hope

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

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