Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jul 22, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Operation Misery a better name?

People who enter or re-enter U.S. borders without legal authorization do so mostly to better their families’ economic circumstances. Escaping misery should not be a crime.

But under a program launched 10 years ago, it has been effectively criminalized. The entirely predictable result has been a clogging of courts, an overpacking of federal jails, a wasteful expense estimated at $7 billion since 2005 and an unjust severing of families that imposes even more misery as breadwinners are imprisoned — for wanting to earn their bread.

This is laid out in a report by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies. A recent Express-News article by Aaron Nelsen explained its findings. Nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted since 2005 in federal courts, 412,240 for improper entry (a misdemeanor) and 317,916 for re-entry (a felony). Read more about Operation Misery a better name?

Jul 15, 2016
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Texas Public Radio

Texas Matters: Operation Streamline And Problems With The U.S. Immigration System

It was just over ten years ago that Operation Streamline debuted in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector – it’s since been expanded to all federal district courts along the border except for the southern border of California.

Operation Streamline is a controversial approach to dealing with unauthorized immigrants that channels the apprehended into a criminal court system that has been called an assembly line and a kangaroo court. Read more about Texas Matters: Operation Streamline And Problems With The U.S. Immigration System

Jul 15, 2016
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San Antonio Current

The Feds Have Spent Billions Jailing People for Illegal Immigration

Eleven years ago, people caught entering the country illegally wouldn't even be criminally prosecuted. Instead, their cases went through a civil removal process. However, in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security instituted Operation Streamline, which moved immigration into the federal criminal courts.

The result? A dumbfounding amount of taxpayer dollars have been spent prosecuting what used to be civil cases, has clogged federal court systems along the border and has not stopped people from trying to cross the border illegally into the United States, according to research published by the Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies in a new book called Indefensible found.

"Operation Streamline is known for the disturbing spectacle of mass courtroom proceedings in which up to 80 shackled migrants are arraigned, convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor improper entry charges," study author Bethany N. Carson writes. 

In 2015, nearly half of all federal prosecutions were of people accused of improper entry or re-entry. Read more about The Feds Have Spent Billions Jailing People for Illegal Immigration

Jul 14, 2016
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The Guardian

Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report

The Obama administration’s prosecution of immigrants who cross the border into the US is a driving force in mass incarceration, according to a new report.

Cases against immigrants for having illegally entered the country, known as illegal entry and re-entry, accounted for half of all criminal cases in the US federal court system last year, a report from Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership found. Non-citizens currently make up nearly a quarter of the total federal prison population, with Mexican nationals alone accounting for 15%.

Now several US judges who sentenced thousands of immigrants say the zero-tolerance policy for such cases they helped enforce was ineffective and should end.

“The only thing we have done is destroyed the lives of many people whose only crime is a desire to exercise their human rights to feed and care for themselves and their families,” said retired judge Felix Recio, who served as a federal magistrate from 1999 to 2013 in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. Read more about Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report

Jul 14, 2016
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Tucson Sentinel

Advocates: Fast-track immigration courts costly, ineffective

The report, titled "Indefensible: A decade of mass incarceration of migrants prosecuted for crossing the border" was a written by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, two research and advocacy groups focused on reducing incarceration and lobbying against private prisons. 

After 10 years, nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted through Operation Streamline, said Judy A. Greene, director of Justice Strategies and one of the report's co-authors. "This gobbles up half of the federal court docket, where nearly half of federal prosecutions are for essentially trespassing," she said. 

"This policy has resulted in a human rights disaster. It’s ineffective, it’s wasteful and it’s failed by every measure," Greene said. Read more about Advocates: Fast-track immigration courts costly, ineffective

Jul 14, 2016
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Common Dreams

End 'Operation Streamline': How One Human Rights Disaster is Driving Several More

The 10-year-old, controversial "Operation Streamline," through which immigrants who cross the border are targeted for criminal prosecution, is wasting taxpayer dollars, tearing apart families, and driving mass incarceration, according to a new report. 

The analysis from nonprofit groups Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership, released Wednesday in the form of a book (pdf), is based on interviews with judges, public defenders, advocates, activists, former prosecutors, and individuals who have been prosecuted as well as their families. "It was clear from talking to actors throughout this system that it is broken in every way," the report reads. Read more about End 'Operation Streamline': How One Human Rights Disaster is Driving Several More

Jul 14, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Operation Streamline crackdown on illegal immigration costly and ineffective, new report claims

McALLEN — A controversial program that targets unauthorized immigrants for criminal prosecution has clogged border courts, cost billions to imprison them, and torn apart tens of thousands of families while doing little to deter illegal immigration, according to a new report published Wednesday by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies.

The report, “Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” highlights what it says are the failures of Operation Streamline, a decade-old initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice that handles illegal border crossing as a federal crime and treats unauthorized immigrants as criminals.

“This policy has resulted in a human rights disaster,” said the report’s co-author Judith A. Greene, director of Justice Strategies, an organization that supports criminal justice reform. “It’s ineffective, it’s wasteful and it’s failed by every measure.” Read more about Operation Streamline crackdown on illegal immigration costly and ineffective, new report claims

Jul 13, 2016
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Univision

Op-Ed: Prosecuting Migrants Is An Indefensible Failure

Roughly 35 years ago mass incarceration was born in the United States. It began with draconian drug laws which disproportionately targeted the poor and communities of color. It then spread to other social ills, like mental illness and homelessness, which -- like drug addiction -- were punished rather than treated.

As the U.S. has become the prison capital of the world, many now recognize that mass incarceration is a moral failure. In 2014, 30 states passed laws aimed to reduce their prison populations. In November of last year, 6,000 drug offenders were released early from federal prison because of a retroactive reduction in drug sentences. An additional 8,550 individuals could be eligible for release this November.

Yet while bipartisan support to end mass incarceration has grown, the drive to criminalize and incarcerate immigrants has intensified. A new book released today by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, “Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” demonstrates the inhumanity, futility, and exorbitant costs of criminalizing immigration. Read more about Op-Ed: Prosecuting Migrants Is An Indefensible Failure

Jul 4, 2016
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Casa Grande Dispatch

Texas prison is big business for Eloy

“It still feels like it’s a lot of money, even for that,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based company that strongly opposes for-profit private prisons such as the one in Dilley.

Caceres’ organization has held protests outside the facility and has pending litigation against South Texas Family Residential Facility.

After a California judge ruled that families detained in the facilities should be released because they did not have the proper child care licenses, ICE stepped in and asked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issue a child care license to another family facility in Texas.

Before a license could be issued for the Dilley facility, Grassroots Leadership sued.

“Our contention is that the agency does not have the authority to license prisons as children care facilities, and these family detention camps are prisons,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the organization. Read more about Texas prison is big business for Eloy

Jun 29, 2016
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Vice

Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans

The US immigration detention has ballooned since the turn of the millennium, doubling in size between 2000 and 2010 amidst a national crackdown on immigration. The bloated system, run largely by private, for-profit prison companies,currently incarcerates men, women, and even children, and the detention centers have been plagued by allegations of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual assault.

In a significant departure from the Obama administration's policies, Clinton has pledged to close these private-run detention centers. She has also promised to close the family detention centers opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to an influx of children and mothers seeking asylum from violence-plagued countries in Central America.

Immigration advocates aren't totally satisfied, pointing out that Clinton has not actually promised to decrease overall detention of undocumented immigrants. "We don't think immigrant detention should exist," said Christina Parker, who directs immigration programs for Grassroots Leadership. "There's a strong argument that the only reason immigrant detention so large is to profit two or three companies. So if you believe that then there would be no reason for them to exist after private contracts ended."

Parker added that the Democratic candidate should specify "how exactly and when exactly" the facilities would shut down. So far, Clinton has not. Read more about Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans

Jun 27, 2016
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AlterNet

Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

“At first the Obama administration said they were locking up families to deter people from crossing,” Cristina Parker, organizer with the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet. “Then when a judge said that was unconstitutional they changed their rationale and said it’s for national security, which is a thin argument. Seeing on paper that they have a quota that directly benefits private prisons underlines that family detention is really driving revenue and profits.” Read more about Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

Jun 25, 2016
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The Guardian

Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center

Federal immigration officials are moving forward with plans for a new 500-bed family detention center to house migrant women and children, even as many advocates and politicians have called for the closure of such facilities altogether.

Officials in Dimmit County, 45 miles from the Texas border with Mexico, say they’ll consider a bid on Monday from a firm who says their facility in a 27-acre former work camp for oil workers would provide dramatically better conditions than two other family detention centers in the state.

Those facilities have faced complaints of poor food, inadequate medical care and allegations of sexual abuse from detainees, activists and the US Civil Rights Commission.

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But Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership, said she and other advocates object inherently to the concept of a detention center for families fleeing violence, regardless of the purported conditions.

“If you are not free to leave, then it doesn’t matter how nice it is,” Parker said. “It’s a prison.” Read more about Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center

Jun 22, 2016
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Equal Times

Undocumented immigrant detainees: the (passive) merchandise of a lucrative business

The detention centres “are like prisons, with heavy metal doors and fences,” explained Parker. “You can’t enter them without authorisation. Some of the detainees have access to legal advice, but it is not something that’s guaranteed.”

With only five per cent of the world population, the United States holds over 20 per cent of the world’s prison population, in local, state and federal prisons. With over 2.3 million people convicted, imprisoned or detained, and the trend towards privatising prisons, it is an attractive business. The detention centres for undocumented immigrants, although a small slice of the cake, also generate profits.

And with the growth in the flow of migrants and refugees this decade, the sector is doing well. Read more about Undocumented immigrant detainees: the (passive) merchandise of a lucrative business

Jun 15, 2016
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The Guardian

Texas officials vote against British firm's plans for immigration detention center

An abrupt about-face has thwarted efforts by the British security firm Serco to open its first family detention center in Texas. Local officials unanimously voted this week against “entering contract agreements” with the company after at least a month of negotiations.

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Serco has promised 200 local jobs if the center is opened. But human rights advocates say the opportunity may not last if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president, since she has promised to end the practice of detaining families.

“This box they’re trying to sell you may have zero value in a few months because we might get a president who might say that family detention is over,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, during last week’s meeting with residents. Read more about Texas officials vote against British firm's plans for immigration detention center

Jun 14, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Jim Wells County deals blow to ICE detention center strategy

The Obama administration’s efforts to comply with a judge’s order over the treatment of immigrant children suffered a setback Monday when Jim Wells County commissioners rejected a proposed holding center for immigrant families.

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“We don't think that there is any way that women and children can be kept in a government facility,” said Alejandro Caceres, the immigration organizer at the Austin advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Jim Wells County deals blow to ICE detention center strategy

Jun 14, 2016
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AlterNet

This Foreign Firm Wants to Break Into the U.S. 'Market' of Detaining Refugee Women and Children

"The answer to the family detention crisis is not contracting for new detention camps, regardless of where they are or who operates them. The answer is ending the practice of locking up kids and their moms once and for all,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, in a press statement released Tuesday. “The Obama administration has a choice—will its legacy be ending family detention or codifying the largest trend in locking up families in this country since Japanese internment." Read more about This Foreign Firm Wants to Break Into the U.S. 'Market' of Detaining Refugee Women and Children

Jun 9, 2016
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KRIS TV

Activist groups oppose plans to build Immigration detention center

JIM WELLS COUNTY - The Jim Wells County officials are looking at the possibility of building a detention center that would house immigrant families awaiting asylum. The proposed facility would be located at the abandoned nursing home right outside San Diego. That is where Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a private company called SERCO hope to build a family immigration center. It would house anywhere from 400 to 500 mothers with their children. Read more about Activist groups oppose plans to build Immigration detention center

Jun 9, 2016
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Huffington Post

Obama Administration Wants Another Family Immigrant Detention Center

The Obama administration is exploring creating another family immigrant detention center in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security and private contractor Serco, Inc. are in talks with local authorities to create a family immigrant detention center in Southern Texas, even as state and federal authorities struggle with litigation over two similar institutions in the state.

Efforts to create another family detention center in Jim Wells County would likely spark backlash among immigrant rights groups and raises the possibility of more legal wrangling over the Obama administration’s controversial policy of locking up predominantly Central American mothers and their children, many of whom arrive here seeking asylum or other humanitarian relief. Read more about Obama Administration Wants Another Family Immigrant Detention Center

Jun 1, 2016
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Reporte Austin

Acciones Contra Las Redadas De ICE

La vida de un inmigrante sin documentos puede cambiar con un toque a la puerta, un toque a la puerte de un agente de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas o ICE por sus siglas en Inglés, puede ser lo que cambie toda nuestras vida para siempre. Para muchos inmigrantes ese toque a la puerta a sido como un golpe al corazon, sabiendo que ese dia puede sera el ultimo dia que van a ver a su familia. Sabiendo que ese agente tiene el poder de levantar a toda la familia, esposo, esposa, niños, niñas o a cualquier persona que encuentren en su casa que ellos piensen que no tengan documentos para llevarlos a un centro de detención y después deportarlos. Read more about Acciones Contra Las Redadas De ICE

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