"Two U.S. congressmen representing Texas called for an 'expedited audit' of the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center in Taylor, citing a female asylum seeker’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a guard and similar allegations from two other detainees." Read more about U.S. Reps. Doggett, Castro call for audit of immigrant detention center
Grassroots Leadership In The News
"Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, an group advocating for immigrants, has long called attention to conditions at the Taylor detention center. More recently, they have risen awareness of the plight of Monterrosa, whose health has declined since being forced into solitary confinement after making her outcry that has prompted her to attempt suicide, advocates have reported." Read more about Texas Congressmen Ask For Immigrant Detention Center Probe
"After a confusing bit of parliamentary gymnastics, City Council last week approved a pair of amendments directing the city manager to resume meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association, and also restoring most of the special pay provisions officers lost when union membership voted against extending the old contract back in December. Though police interests praised the action, the city's activist community left the meeting on Thursday feeling like Council had forgotten the voices that only two months ago called for a new approach to public safety spending. At the tail-end of talks, Grassroots Leadership organizer Chris Harris summed up the afternoon: 'We're banging our heads against a wall.'
... Harris was more blunt, asking why Council would restore funding when union membership could've agreed to an extension in December. 'Three weeks ago, Bryan Richter, the officer that brutalized Breaion King, was finally fired after another brutal arrest,' he said. 'This is a force that still employs Patrick Spradlin, the officer who made blatantly racist remarks to King in the back of the vehicle. Instead of restoring perks that they walked away from, we ask that you restore the oversight that was also lost when the police left the negotiation table and killed their own contract.'
Despite those arguments, council members expressed concern about the impacts on officers and ultimately approved both resolutions. Negotiators will be tasked with increasing field training and longevity in the next round of bargaining. APA President Ken Casaday expressed satisfaction in the results and indicated that the union will be ready to go back to the table as soon as Council gives them a date. As that happens, the activist coalition will continue its work on a plan to overhaul the oversight process with an independent complaint system. 'We'd like to see a chance for something like it to get off the ground and see what it can do,' Harris said. 'And then see how it could be strengthened, potentially, via contract or some other method.'" Read more about Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon
"The council members from Austin are requesting access to the detainee after a Feb. 20 attempt by Council Member Greg Casar to visit with the woman was rebuffed by CoreCivic officials who run the site. Reportedly, the detention center's operators expressed concerns Casar would later go to the media to describe what he might have seen at the facility, according to Grassroots Leadership advocates.
... Hearing of her hardship, the three council members now requesting to visit with Monterrosa also are demanding she be released — joining a cause Austin-based Grassroots Leadership has long taken on.
'To bar officials from entering a detention center because they represent the public, or because they may speak to the media about what they see, raises dire questions about freedom of speech and the transparency of these facilities,' the letter reads in part. 'We are deeply concerned that continued detention will be harmful for Ms. Monterrosa's health and call on you to release her immediately from detention."' Read more about Austin Council Members Seek Access To Detained Immigrant
"The council members also said in the letter that continued detention would be harmful to Monterrosa’s health.
Monterrosa has tried to kill herself and was placed in solitary confinement for 60 hours in early February because she was suicidal, according to the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Monterrosa also was told that if she didn’t recant her allegations of being sexually assaulted by a guard at the facility, she would be put back in solitary confinement, said Bethany Carson, a researcher for Grassroots Leadership.
The letter from the Austin City Council members asked ICE to release Monterrosa from the detention center and said an Austin nonprofit group is willing to support her." Read more about Austin council members request visit with woman in letter to ICE
"A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday argues that a company that manages immigrant detention centers — including the T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor — is violating the federal Trafficking Victims and Protection Act by forcing labor on those in the center.
...The T. Don Hutto center has been in the spotlight recently after Austin-based activist group Grassroots Leadership said it received letters from three women accusing guards at the detention center of sexual misconduct. One of those women is Laura Monterrosa, who has said she was sexually assaulted by a female guard." Read more about Lawsuit: Taylor facility forces detainees to work for little or no pay
"On Wednesday, Feb. 14, a group of about 50 people gathered outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, to protest the isolation of one Laura Monterrosa, a young asylum seeker who has been convicted of no crimes. Though her solitary confinement was temporary, her story is far from over, and it is part of a larger pattern of abuse and silencing to which activists are hoping to draw attention." Read more about Suffering in Silence: Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers
"Officials at Grassroots Leadership — an Austin-based national organization working against prison profiteering, mass incarceration and deportation — will ask Williamson County Commissioners Court members to intervene on behalf of an immigrant woman facing extreme hardship at a county detention center.
The group is acting on behalf of Laura Monterrosa, an asylum seeker from El Salvador being detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, which in actuality is a detention center for immigrant women. Advocates say the woman's mental and physical health continue to decline after she was driven to attempt suicide at the detention center in early January. Monterrosa has spent nearly nine months at the detention center where she previously spoke out about being sexually assaulted by a guard.
Since her outcry, the woman has been subjected to what Grassroots Leadership officials say is a pattern of retaliation — including being placed in solitary confinement for 60 hours earlier this month in what her advocates say was vengeance for her outcry." Read more about Austin Advocates Call For Release Of Detained Migrant Woman
"In fact, as usual with this thundering law-and-order administration, ICE is also lousy with criminals. Its top lawyer in Seattle has been charged with stealing seven immigrants' identities. The agency typically stuffs the people they round up into hellish dungeons where sexual assault is rampant. One asylum seeker, Laura Monterrosa, who alleges she was repeatedly raped by her jailers in an ICE facility, said she was tortured with solitary confinement over speaking up. She was told she would not be released until she recanted her testimony.
Let's just get rid of this rotten organization." Read more about End ICE
"Bethany Carson, a researcher for the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said at the commissioners meeting that if Monterrosa killed herself in detention it would signal a wrongful death lawsuit that could cost the county 'millions of dollars.'
'The county is liable for these abuses happening to Laura and we do not want taxpayer money spent that way,' Carson said." Read more about Austin City Council member not allowed to visit woman in detention
"Monterrosa, a 23-year-old artist from El Salvador, is seeking asylum in the United States and has been held at the facility for nearly nine months, said Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant advocacy group that also is seeking her release. It said she is fleeing from violence in her country and that a nonprofit group in Austin has agreed to provide her shelter and counseling.
Bethany Carson, a researcher for Grassroots Leadership, said Monterrosa tried to kill herself Jan. 12 after swallowing 50 pills left with her by CoreCivic, which owns and operates the detention center. Monterrosa was then put in solitary confinement for 60 hours this month just days after the FBI interviewed her about her sexual assault allegations, Carson said.
[...] When she was released from solitary confinement, Carson said, a guard told her she would have to recant her allegations or be placed in solitary confinement indefinitely. Monterrosa said she was having suicidal thoughts again this past weekend, Carson said, and is also having medical problems, is vomiting and cannot eat." Read more about Austin council member denied a visit with asylum-seeker in detention
"Grassroots Leadership members said the county is liable for the abuses that are happening to Monterrosa and should intercede with ICE for her release.
'The county is a party to the contract, along with ICE and CoreCivic for the T. Don Hutto Detention Center,' Grassroots Leadership member Bethany Carson said. 'They are liable for any abuses that happens as a party to the contract."' Read more about WilCo group demands action from county commissioners on sex assault investigation
"Last month, Monterrosa attempted suicide after she was forced to eat in the same cafeteria as the guard she says assaulted her. She survived the attempt, but in the weeks following, she’s claimed the jail has taken punitive and inhumane steps to try to force her to change her story.
'I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation,' Monterrosa said in a statement last month following her attempted suicide: 'I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.'" Read more about After sexual assault accusation against a guard, ICE detainee faces solitary
"Now, armed with her new diagnosis, Norma could understand the source of her anxieties. The constant sense of foreboding, the extreme fear of speaking in class, the guardedness around her white colleagues — these were classic examples of PTSD-associated hypervigilance.
[...] Her work has become more rewarding too. She left her old job at the Texas state capitol at the end of 2016, knowing that the Republican-dominated legislature planned to pass a statewide immigration crackdown that mirrored Trump’s agenda. She now works in mental health and criminal justice advocacy with Austin-based Grassroots Leadership." Read more about What Happened to Norma's Brain?
"This summer, the civil rights organization Grassroots Leadership revealed that, according to an analysis of 2015 jail booking data, African-Americans on average stayed in the Travis County Jail nearly twice as long as white inmates. African-Americans who were booked on a driving while intoxicated charge spent nearly 15 days in jail on average, while white inmates were generally released within five days for the same charge, according to the report." Read more about Court-at-Law No. 3 judge faces Democratic challenger
"Latasha Taylor, a member of that cohort and a mental health organizer at Grassroots Leadership, talked with Into the Fold about empowering members of marginalized communities to seek out and create—through activism, advocacy and good communication—alternatives for mental health wellness and recovery that operate outside clinical settings.
Taylor aims to energize and mobilize people who, like herself, feel disempowered by inadequate mental health services. Achieving system-wide equity and efficacy, she believes, requires building a 'place and space' of community wellness beyond diagnosis and treatment." Read more about Activism for Mental Health
"According to an immigrant rights group, an incarcerated immigrant woman, Laura Monterrosa-Flores, who was allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted by a guard in a Texas detention center, was put into solitary confinement last week when she refused to recant her complaint." Read more about Woman Detained By ICE Sexually Abused By Guard, Put In Solitary Confinement
Decenas de personas se unieron el miércoles a un puñado de activistas pro-inmigrante para exigir la liberación de Laura Monterrosa, una mujer que alega ser el blanco de abuso dentro del Centro de Detención T. Don Hutto de Taylor.
“Estamos exigiendo que dejen y dejen de torturar a Laura Monterrosa, que es una víctima de abuso sexual ahí adentro", dijo Claudia Muñoz, directora de los programas de protección a los inmigrantes de Grassroots Leadership. Read more about El Centro de Detención T. Don Hutto enfrenta acusaciones de abuso en sus instalaciones
"And in Texas, supporters of 23-year-old asylum seeker Laura Monterrosa say she was put in solitary confinement for 60 hours at the T. Don Hutto detention center outside Austin in order to pressure her to recant her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a guard. ICE says Monterrosa was under “medical observation.” But she later made a strange call to her lawyer from an unusual phone number. Grassroots Leadership shared a recording with Democracy Now!
Read more about Texas: Solitary Confinement for Asylum Seeker over Sexual Assault Allegations
Laura Monterrosa: “I wanted to call you, because I wanted to tell you that everything I had said was false, and I was forced to tell you that, because, if not, they were going to lock me again in that room, and I didn’t want to be locked again in that room.”
"We know that there are thousands of men and women who are sexually abused in detention every single year and that usually, that results in less than 1 percent conviction rate and investigation rate for all of the cases. So for us, it's not just about Laura, it's about the larger systemic issue of sexual abuse and abuse of power that happens inside of detention centers," says Claudia Munoz, immigration programs director, Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Protest outside T. Don Hutto Residential Center