Grassroots Leadership In The News

Sep 5, 2014
La Voz de Houston

Inmigración libera a niña salvadoreña para que reciba tratamiento de cáncer

Después de semanas de retraso y gran alboroto por parte de defensores de los inmigrantes, autoridades federales acordaron poner en libertad a una niña salvadoreña de siete años que padece cáncer y a su madre para que la pequeña reciba tratamiento.

Cuando Nayely Bermúdez Beltrán y su madre, Sara Beltrán Rodríguez, huyeron de la violencia imperante en El Salvador y vinieron en julio a Estados Unidos, dijeron de inmediato a oficiales del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza que la niña necesitaba atención médica debido a un tumor cerebral, según dijo Beltrán el miércoles.

La violencia en su país de origen es tan intensa, así como las amenazas a Beltrán y a su hija, que tuvieron que posponer los planes para que Nayely recibiera tratamiento adicional en su patria, según dijo Beltrán al San Antonio Express-News después de ser puestas en libertad en la noche del miércoles.

De la zona fronteriza, madre e hija fueron transferidas al Centro Residencial del Condado de Karnes sin que la niña hubiese recibido ningún tratamiento a pesar de que en el lugar de detención hay personal médico y equipos especiales, y la madre formuló sus peticiones en varias ocasiones.

Aunque a Nayely le ofrecieron quedarse en casa de unos amigos que están legalmente en Estados Unidos, autoridades de inmigración se negaron en un inicio a poner a la niña y a su madre en libertad o fijar una fianza para ambas, según el grupo de activistas Grassroots Leadership, que ayudó a dar a conocer este caso. Read more about Inmigración libera a niña salvadoreña para que reciba tratamiento de cáncer

Sep 4, 2014
Daily Mail

Seven-year-old Salvadoran girl with brain tumor is released from immigrant detention center so that she can get treatment after uproar

A seven-year-old Salvadoran cancer sufferer has finally been released from an immigrant detention center in Texas so that she can get treatment for her brain tumor after weeks of delays.

Following uproar from advocacy groups, Nayely Bermudez Beltran and her mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, were allowed to leave the Karnes County Residential Center on Wednesday night so that the little girl can undergo treatment next week.

The duo fled violence in El Salvador in July and when they entered the U.S., Beltran immediately told border patrol officers that the girl needed medical attention, the Houston Chronicle reported.

But they were transferred to the center in Karnes County without Nayely undergoing any treatment - and even though they had a place to stay, authorities would not release them or set bail,Grassroots Leadership explained.


One of the doctors, neurologist Dr. Simon Carlson, urged ICE to release the girl, saying that her health could 'take a turn for the worse with little to no forewarning, with devastating outcomes'.

'Urgent care is needed for this child, and she is likely to suffer long term brain damage or worse if left to routine care without urgent specialist intervention,' he said.  

On Wednesday, the agency finally released the pair and they went to a shelter in Austin, according to Texans United for Families, which helped fight for their release.

Photographs taken outside the shelter show the mother and daughter grinning with their lawyer.

'Nayely and Sara just walked out of the Karnes family detention center,' the caption read. 'They are on their way to a warm and welcoming place in Austin and Nayely is going to see a doctor on Tuesday.' Read more about Seven-year-old Salvadoran girl with brain tumor is released from immigrant detention center so that she can get treatment after uproar

Sep 3, 2014
Houston Chronicle

Feds release 7-year-old immigrant girl with cancer for treatment

After weeks of delay and an uproar from immigrant advocates, federal authorities agreed Wednesday to release a 7-year-old Salvadoran girl with cancer, and her mother, from a detention center in Karnes City so the child can get treatment.

When Nayely Bermudez Beltran and her mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, fled violence in El Salvador and in July came to the United States, they immediately told Customs and Border Protection officers that the girl needed medical attention for a brain tumor, Beltran said Wednesday.

The violence was so severe - and threats constant to Beltran and her daughter - that they had to scrap plans for additional treatment for Nayely in their home country, Beltran told the Express-News shortly after their release.

But mother and daughter were later transferred to the Karnes County Residential Center, without any treatment despite the facility having medical staff and equipment and the mother making repeated requests.

Although Nayely was offered a place to stay with friends who have legal status in the United States, immigration authorities initially declined to release the girl and her mother or set bail, according to advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which helped publicize their case. Meanwhile, Nayely was visibly ill and regularly wetting the bed due to her condition, her mother said.

"We were waiting for a month, and no one would do anything," Beltran said. "I felt anguished. I would pray to God to send me someone for help. He listened to my prayers." Read more about Feds release 7-year-old immigrant girl with cancer for treatment

Sep 2, 2014
Think Progress

Private Prison Stocks Soar As Companies Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrants

One ICE official told KUT News that the agency had no choice in picking GEO because they had a contract with the county, which then subcontracted to GEO. Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership said subcontracting is one of the strategies private prison firms use to keep making money despite their negative reputations.

GEO has faced continuous allegations of malfeasance at its facilities, including legal violations and inmate abuse. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. Because the firms are profit-driven, they have an incentive to cut corners on the care of their inmates and detainees to save money. They have also lobbied heavily for policies that serve their interests. Read more about Private Prison Stocks Soar As Companies Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrants

Aug 7, 2014

Groups Want Creation of Family Detention Stopped

Several groups launched a campaign today to stop the creation of immigrant family detention centers.

"This is something that's been announced in the last month, that the Obama Administration is returning to the practice of detaining immigrant and refugee families in mass," says Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

... "We think that putting little kids behind prison walls particularly prison walls operated by a for profit prison corporation is absolutely the wrong thing," says Libal. Read more about Groups Want Creation of Family Detention Stopped

Aug 6, 2014
La Voz de Houston

Texanos Unidos por las Familias pide no internar familias indocumentadas en centros de detención

La organización Texanos Unidos por las Familias (TUF, por sus siglas en inglés) inició este miércoles una campaña para pedir al gobierno federal que minimice el número de familias indocumentadas detenidas recientemente en la frontera a las que interna en centros de detención.

Miembros de TUF, que participaron esta mañana en una conferencia de prensa celebrada en Austin, recalcaron que uno de los problemas que implican los centros de detención es que para los detenidos tener acceso a representación legal se complica mucho.

Uno de los centros de detención a los que las autoridades están llevando a algunas de las familias indocumentadas es el que está ubicado en Karnes City, en Texas, concretamente 60 millas al sureste de San Antonio. Otro de los centros de detención de familias indocumentadas está en Artesia (Nuevo México).

“Es un centro (de detención) que está en medio de la nada, es muy remoto y allí no hay servicios legales pro-bono”, comentó sobre el centro de Karnes City Bob Libal, director ejecutivo de Grassroots Leadership, uno de los grupos que forman parte de TUF.

Libal añadió que la mayoría de familias a las que intenta defender la campaña de TUF están formadas por madres e hijos, aunque en algunos casos también hay padres. Read more about Texanos Unidos por las Familias pide no internar familias indocumentadas en centros de detención

Aug 6, 2014

A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

...[An] ICE official said the agency had no choice in picking GEO. The contract, he explained, is not through ICE but through Karnes County.

The view from the Karnes City facility's upper-level residences.
Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Bob Libal says subcontracting is part of the strategy GEO has used to stay in business despite persistent lawsuits. Libal leads Grassroots Leadership – a nonprofit organization that, among other things, researches the shortcomings of for-profit prison corporations.

"Whenever anything goes wrong ICE says, ‘This is not our problem, this is the county's problem,’” Libal says. “But really, you have layers of lack of transparency and lack of accountability that are built into these contracts.”

Libal says GEO is Texas' first choice to run detention centers, prisons and mental health facilities in part because they save the state money by cutting costs.

But he also notes the group is a very generous political contributor at the state and federal levels, and has one of the strongest lobbying teams he’s ever seen. Two members of the company’s board of directors are former members of the George W. Bush administration; Libal says there’s a sort of “buddy-buddy” relationship within GEO's county contract negotiations. Read more about A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

Jul 30, 2014
International Business Times

Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

... Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization that has campaigned against family detention and the for-profit prison industry, said the government would likely be eager to keep contracting family detention centers to private companies.

“It’s an easy solution for the government because there are private prison corporations that have excess capacity, particularly today, with declining state prison populations,” he said. “And it’s about influence -- private prison corporations are enormously powerful, particularly in immigration.” Libal noted that Julie Myers Wood, former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a member of GEO Group’s board of directors, and that David Venturella, former head of the "Secure Communities" enforcement program, is now a GEO Group senior vice president ....  Read more about Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

Jul 23, 2014
Idaho Statesman

Letter: Private prisons

On July 1, the Idaho Department of Corrections officially took back control of the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) after 14 years of operation under the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). As the Lewiston Tribune put it in their opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman July 7, "... after a long, dark chapter, Idaho has cast aside a profit motive more suited to making widgets or selling hamburgers than to warehousing human beings."

Kicking CCA and the profit-motive in imprisonment out of the ICC is absolutely a step in the right direction. However, we cannot forget Idaho is not completely rid of CCA quite yet. More than 200 Idaho prisoners remain locked up in a for-profit CCA prison in Burlington, Colo. Prisoners, their families and loved ones, and Idaho taxpayers continue to pay the price for the state's failure to prioritize real solutions to prison overcrowding.

Shipping prisoners across state lines to for-profit prisons is not a solution. It is a costly Band-Aid that is ripping families apart and undermining individuals' chances of rehabilitation. It's unsustainable. It's inhumane. It needs to end now.

Holly Kirby, organizer, Grassroots Leadership

Austin, Texas

Read more here:



Read more here:

Read more here: Read more about Letter: Private prisons
Jul 12, 2014

Grassroots Activists Stand Up For Immigrants' Rights

Last month, members from Texans United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the Hutto Visitation Program wrote a joint letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking them to shut down the Harwell Center as a result of what they call limited " medical care, visitation, recreation, dirty uniforms, a lack of access to legal processes and attorneys, and the penal nature of the facility." Read more about Grassroots Activists Stand Up For Immigrants' Rights

Jul 3, 2014
Austin Chronicle

Hamilton Digs In: Won't End 'S-Comm'

"We're very happy the City Council has taken leadership on this issue," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

"Republican sheriffs in Cali­­fornia, Colorado, Kansas, rural Oregon, have said they're not going to violate people's rights and honor ICE detainers," Libal said. "It's very frustrating that the sheriff continues to demonize the immigrant community and perpetuate outright lies about them." Read more about Hamilton Digs In: Won't End 'S-Comm'

Jun 28, 2014
TWC News

Sheriff: Deportation Program is Federally Mandated

Travis County ranks 11th in the nation when it comes to the number of people deported. A total of 4,741 people have been deported from the county in the last fiveyears.

"I think that really puts him on the wrong side of history," Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership.

Libal said recent court decisions essentially allow jails to ignore requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain inmates. "This is devastating to the immigrant community," he said. "It also wastes taxpayer dollars, and it's illegal." Read more about Sheriff: Deportation Program is Federally Mandated

Jun 27, 2014
Austin Chronicle

Council Slams ‘S-Comm’ - Unanimous vote rejects county participation in deportation program

In a 7-0 vote Thursday evening, City Council unanimously passed a resolution formally opposing the federal Secure Communities program, through which immigration officials identify jail inmates for deportation – including large numbers of arrestees detained at the Travis County jail. Read more about Council Slams ‘S-Comm’ - Unanimous vote rejects county participation in deportation program

Jun 23, 2014
El Diario

Buscan incentivar visitas a inmigrantes detenidos

Cristina Parker aún recuerda su primera visita a una mujer inmigrante detenida a la cual no conocía y que se encontraba recluida en uno de los Centros de Detención para Inmigrantes que hay en el país.

“Fue triste la primera vez que hice la visita, pero es más difícil para ellas estar ahí”, recordó Parker.

Parker es coordinadora del proyecto de inmigración de la organización ‘Grassroots Leadership’, misma agrupación que implementó el Programa de Visitas a Inmigrantes en Detención en el T. Don Hutto Detention Center en Taylor, Texas.

Mediante este programa se coordinan las visitas de voluntarios con el fin de romper con el aislamiento de los detenidos y destacando el significado emocional de una visita. Ahora su objetivo es crear otros programas similares en otros lugares de Texas, como podría ser en El Paso. Read more about Buscan incentivar visitas a inmigrantes detenidos

Jun 22, 2014
The Rag Blog

Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers

Grassroots Leadership says that Texas is “ground zero” with “more incarcerated people, immigration detention beds, and for-profit prisons than any other state.” That is why the national organization, founded in 1980 by activist and musician Si Kahn, moved its program operations to Austin in 2012.

I spoke with Executive Director Bob Libal about Grassroots Leadership and the group’s current organizing efforts in Travis County, Texas, and nationally. They have a solid track record of success. They helped shut down the notoriously bad Dawson State Jail, end the immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, and stop the expansion of the private prison industry. They also have an ambitious agenda for the future. Read more about Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers

Jun 20, 2014
Texas Tribune

White House Under Fire for Proposed Solution to Immigrant Surge

Neither immgrants' rights groups or lawmakers have received the plan positively.

“Returning to mass family detention and deportation policies is a giant step backwards," said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group that opposes private immigration detention centers and advocates for immigration reform. Read more about White House Under Fire for Proposed Solution to Immigrant Surge

Jun 20, 2014
Huffington Post

Obama Administration To 'Surge' Immigration Enforcement On Border

"It's a real step backwards for immigration policy," said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which advocates for alternatives to detention. "Detention should always be used as a last option ... the harm that comes from children from being detained is well-documented, and if we don't have to do this, we shouldn't be doing it." Read more about Obama Administration To 'Surge' Immigration Enforcement On Border

May 18, 2014
El Diario de Juarez

Retoma el jefe de Seguridad Interna de EU controversia por ‘Comunidades Seguras’

Washington— La observación que hizo Jeh Johnson, secretario del Departamento de Seguridad Interna (DHS por sus siglas en inglés) de que un controvertido programa de inmigración necesita un “aire fresco” provocó una fuerte división entre los activistas a favor de la inmigración, legisladores y el gobierno sobre la pregunta políticamente cargada acerca de las reformas pendientes de inmigración.

Johnson comentó el jueves que Comunidades Seguras, un programa que le da seguimiento a los inmigrantes indocumentados que han sido arrestados por los oficiales de policía de la localidad, originalmente pretendió ser “una manera eficiente de colaborar con las autoridades estatales y locales para cumplir con las prioridades de la deportación”, pero se han convertido en “algo muy controvertido”.

El DHS podría estar preparado para considerar cambios importantes en el programa y darle una mejor prioridad a las deportaciones, comentó Johnson en una entrevista que concedió al programa NewsHour de PBS.

Sin embargo, el representante Lamar Smith, republicano por San Antonio, comentó que las fallas en el sistema de deportación son el resultado de la falta de aplicación de la ley de las policías actuales, no un indicio de que se necesitan hacer reformas importantes.

Washington— “Nuestras leyes de inmigración, incluyendo las Comunidades Seguras, no necesitan ser reformadas, necesitan ser aplicadas”, comentó Smith. “El secretario Johnson desea que los estadounidenses piensen que el problema son nuestras leyes, pero el problema es el presidente y sus políticas”.

Las Comunidades Seguras fueron implementadas en el 2008, al final de la presidencia de George W. Bush, para deportar a los inmigrantes indocumentados que tenían antecedentes criminales y darle prioridad a su remoción. Los activistas de inmigración indicaron que el programa no logró darle prioridad a los criminales peligrosos y deportó a aquellos que fueron arrestados por cometer faltas de tránsito habituales o porque no pudieron presentar documentos para identificarse.

Aunque las Comunidades Seguras empezaron en sólo 14 jurisdicciones, actualmente se extendieron a más de 3 mil, incluyendo todas las que se encuentran en la frontera suroeste de Estados Unidos.

En los arrestos habituales, oficiales estatales y locales que aplican la ley, le toman las huellas dactilares a cada sospechoso y las envían al FBI. A través del programa, se requiere que el FBI las envíe automáticamente al DHS para que el ICE pueda verificar el estatus migratorio del sospechoso.

En sus primeros cinco años, las Comunidades Seguras removieron a más de 166 mil inmigrantes indocumentados convictos de delitos, incluyendo a 61 mil que fueron condenados por felonías agravadas.

Sin embargo, Cristina Parker, coordinadora de Proyectos de Inmigración en Grassroots Leadership, un grupo de activistas que tiene su sede en Austin, comentó que el programa tiene muchas fallas, incluyendo la presión que ejerce sobre las familias de indocumentados que evitan llamar a la policía, aún en casos de emergencia.

“Las deportaciones están provocando mucho temor en la comunidad”, comentó Parker. “Hemos escuchado a personas que dicen que por ninguna razón llamarían a la policía”.

Aún cuando Parker considera las inquietudes de Johnson sobre este programa como un paso en la dirección correcta, dijo que el ofrecimiento para reformar el programa ha sido colocado sobre la mesa en múltiples ocasiones en los últimos años, pero se ha continuado con el ciclo de las deportaciones innecesarias de personas que cometen delitos menores. 

“Ya le hemos oído a DHS decir que las comunidades seguras irán tras los delincuentes peligrosos violentos”, dijo Parker. “Eso no ha resultado ser así. Desde el principio, este programa ha estado defectuoso desde sus cimientos”.

Kica Matos, vocera de la coalición de organizaciones defensoras de los derechos de los inmigrantes Movimiento a favor de una Reforma Inmigratoria Justa, consideró que el programa no sólo va dirigido a los tipos equivocados de inmigrantes, sino que genera una discriminación que ha causado desconfianza entre las autoridades y los inmigrantes en comunidades de todo el país.

“Fomenta las revisiones por apariencia física, ha dañado seriamente la confianza entre la policía local y los inmigrantes y ha propiciado un amplia red de captura en las comunidades inmigrantes de todo el país”, dijo Matos. “Los inmigrantes han sido penalizados y sus familias separadas debido a las Comunidades Seguras”.

Cuando se le preguntó acerca de la posibilidad de ampliar los programas de Acción Diferida para la Llegada durante la Infancia, Johnson dijo haber sostenido con diversos grupos conversaciones en torno a revisar las prioridades de expulsión y que su objetivo es encontrar una solución que tome en cuenta las necesidades de todos.

“Espero que sea lo que sea lo que hagamos se refleje en un enfoque equilibrado y considerado que aborde todos estos puntos de vista”, explicó Johnson.

Pero al intentar complacer a legisladores como Smith, quien desea que se vigile la implementación de los programas actuales, y activistas como Parker y Matos, quienes quieren que éstos sean eliminados, cada vez parece menos posible que alguien termine contento con los resultados.

“No queremos ver reformas”, dijo Parker. “Queremos ver que se pone fin a este programa”.

Esta revisión sobre deportación se da 11 meses después de que se aprobó la iniciativa del Senado según la cual se hubiera legalizado a 11 millones de inmigrantes que hoy radican ilegalmente en Estados Unidos. La alineación partidista ha conducido a un estancamiento de apariencia insondable en el Congreso encabezado por los republicanos, lo cual podría significar que al concluir la sesión legislativa del presente año se archive la reforma inmigratoria.

Pero cuando se le preguntó si la modificación de Comunidades Seguras se daría a “corto plazo”, Johnson contestó; “creo que sí y así debe de ser”.

Y a pesar de los desacuerdos en torno a la reforma inmigratoria que se registran en el Congreso, Johnson dijo que el Ejecutivo aún puede tomar decisiones acerca de varios de estos programas.

“Hagamos lo que hagamos en el Ejecutivo, tenemos que hacerlo dentro de los límites de las leyes existentes”, señaló Johnson. “Así que tenemos una cantidad considerable de discrecionalidad en lo relativo a establecer las prioridades de nuestras actividades de vigilancia”. (The New York Times/Hearst Newspapers) Read more about Retoma el jefe de Seguridad Interna de EU controversia por ‘Comunidades Seguras’