Grassroots Leadership In The News

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Jan 25, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Immigrant Women Stuck in Detention

"This isn't your usual bureaucratic backlog," says Sofia Casini, an immigration coordinator with Grassroots Leadership. "There aren't too many cases on the docket; there's hundreds of cases not on the docket. That's not normal in any legal context."

Without a court date, women can't know when to hire an attorney; when to collect evidence, like police records from their home country (an often dangerous task); and other time-consuming and costly preparations. And as weeks turn into months, evidence can grow stale and witnesses can back out. "They are getting no information at all about essentially their life sentence," said Casini. "It's hard to explain just how completely unjust and abnormal that is." Read more about Immigrant Women Stuck in Detention

Jan 25, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Travis County Plans New Women's Jail

"One evening last September, an employee at the local organization Grassroots Lead­er­ship was scanning through Travis Coun­ty's proposed budget when she stumbled upon plans for a new $91 million women's jail on the county's Del Valle correctional campus. She spread the word to her co-workers, who were blindsided by the news. 'It immediately caught our eye and caused a lot of concern,' said Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots.

Kirby notified several partner organizations of Grassroots' Decarcerate ATX campaign, which aims to reduce incarceration and its inordinate impact on communities of color. These included Lone Star Justice Alliance, Texas Advocates for Justice, Texas Appleseed, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Texas Fair Defense Project – 'all the folks in the community that should be a part of the conversation,' Kirby said. 'And it was a total surprise to all of us.'

Further alarming the coalition, the new women's facility is just part of the first phase of an extensive jail renovation and expansion expected to take 24 years and cost more than half a billion dollars. After testifying against the jail at the county commissioners' budget hearing in September, the coalition sent a letter to county staff and elected officials on Jan. 19, asking them to halt any further action on the jail. 'Our organizations strongly believe that before we invest millions in new infrastructure that potentially adds bed capacity to the Travis County jail system, serious analysis of the drivers of the jail population and formal consultation with stakeholders are urgently needed."' Read more about Travis County Plans New Women's Jail

Jan 25, 2018
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Texas Observer

ICE Arrested Nearly Three Times as Many Immigrants During Last Year’s Austin Raid Than Previously Reported

"Now, in response to a nearly year-old public information request, an internal ICE tally obtained by the Observer reveals that ICE nabbed 132 immigrants in the Austin area, nearly triple the number previously reported.

'This reflects what we saw on the ground, that ICE’s actions completely terrorized our community,' said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots leadership, an Austin immigrant rights group that reported receiving over a thousand calls to its deportation hotline during the operation. 'It reflects the impact we saw in the community, which was that of a large-scale action.”' Read more about ICE Arrested Nearly Three Times as Many Immigrants During Last Year’s Austin Raid Than Previously Reported

Jan 24, 2018
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¡Ahora Sí!

Inmigrante detenida que alega haber sido asaltada intenta suicidarse

"Laura Monterrosa, una mujer de El Salvador que ha permanecido en detención en el centro T. Don Hutto desde mayo, intentó quitarse la vida el 11 de enero, de acuerdo al grupo con base en Austin en pro de la defensa de los inmigrantes Grassroots Leadership.

'Me siento muy desesperada porque traté de reportar el abuso a los oficiales de ICE y de las instalaciones, pero continúan abusando de mí psicológicamente a través de la intimidación', dijo Monterrosa en un comunicado publicado el lunes 15 por la organización Grassroots Leadership. 'No me siento segura. No estoy recibiendo el tratamiento médico o la ayuda que necesito'." Read more about Inmigrante detenida que alega haber sido asaltada intenta suicidarse

Jan 20, 2018
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The Express Tribune

Immigrant woman sexually abused, attempts suicide in Texas detention center

“I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation,” said Monterrosa after she was discharged from medical care. I was four the first time I was sexually abused: Nadia Jamil She further added: “I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.”

 

  Read more about Immigrant woman sexually abused, attempts suicide in Texas detention center

Jan 19, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Advocates: Immigrant who said guard assaulted her attempted suicide

"Laura Monterrosa, a woman from El Salvador who has been held at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center since May, tried to kill herself on Jan. 11, according to the Austin-based immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

'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 released Monday by Grassroots Leadership. 'I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.'" Read more about Advocates: Immigrant who said guard assaulted her attempted suicide

Jan 19, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Detained immigrant who said guard assaulted her tried to commit suicide, advocates say

Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said Monterrosa’s case is heart-wrenching.

“It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again,” Muñoz said. “Laura can’t escape this pain, she can’t get the treatment she needs.” Read more about Detained immigrant who said guard assaulted her tried to commit suicide, advocates say

Jan 19, 2018
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Mundo Hispánico

Intenta suicidarse inmigrante que reportó abuso sexual en centro de detención en Austin, FBI inicia investigación

"Bethany Carson, Investigadora y Organizadora de Inmigración de Grassroots Leadership dijo a MundoHispánico, que Monterrosa intentó quitarse la vida tomando muchas pastillas que los oficiales médicos del centro de detención habían dejado. Agregó que las acciones de las autoridades, la llevaron a sentir que no tenía otra forma de solucionar su situación.

La organización ha iniciado una campaña para pedir al Senador republicano John Cornyn la liberación de Monterrosa, a través de una carta que ha sido publicada en su Facebook." Read more about Intenta suicidarse inmigrante que reportó abuso sexual en centro de detención en Austin, FBI inicia investigación

Jan 19, 2018
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The Independent

Immigrant woman attempts suicide after reporting allegations of sexual abuse at Texas detention centre

"Sofia Casini, the immigration programmes coordinator at Grassroots Leadership, told The Independent that guards were called into Ms Monterrosa’s cell shortly after she took the pills, but did not assist her. Instead, Ms Monterrosa took herself to the medical centre hours later, after talking on the phone with Grassroots staff.

'This case is heart-wrenching,' Claudia Muñoz, immigration programmes director at Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. '..It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again.'" Read more about Immigrant woman attempts suicide after reporting allegations of sexual abuse at Texas detention centre

Jan 19, 2018
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Advocates Urge Halt To Travis County Plans For New Women's Jail

Advocates Urge Halt To Travis County Plans For New Women's Jail

"AUSTIN, TX — Community leaders on Friday urged top Travis County officials to halt plans on building a new women's jail and instead focus on implementing recommendations to reduce incarceration rates.

The letter delivered Friday by representatives of nine community groups suggested county officials implement three policy changes aimed at reducing the county jail population:

  • Decriminalize all offenses that are eligible for cite-and-release measures.
  • Reevaluate prosecution of state jail felonies.
  • Invest in community alternatives to arrest for offenders with mental health issues and substance use disorders."
Read more about Advocates Urge Halt To Travis County Plans For New Women's Jail
Jan 18, 2018
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The Outline

Asylum seekers are being sexually assaulted in U.S. detention

"In the meantime, Monterrosa remains at Hutto, where she says she has experienced retaliation as a result of speaking out. She has described it as 'hell.' 'I don’t go to the dining area. I don’t go to any of the recreation areas because I’m so scared I’ll see [the guard who assaulted me] in the hallways,' she said when we spoke on January 4. By that point, she said she hadn’t been to the dining area in two weeks and had stopped eating altogether once she ran out of money on her commissary account. She said she was threatened with disciplinary action for refusing eat. A week after we last spoke, Monterrosa tried to kill herself by overdosing on pain medication that had been left in her room by Hutto medical staff. According to Grassroots Leadership, she ingested 51 prescription pills. The following day, she was finally told that the guard who assaulted her was being transferred to a different facility." Read more about Asylum seekers are being sexually assaulted in U.S. detention

Jan 18, 2018
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Austin Monitor

APD makes final push to get body cameras on all patrol officers

"Chris Harris, a data analyst with Grassroots Leadership, told members of the city’s Public Safety Commission earlier this month that the public accountability the cameras can provide is limited.

'These actually are a conduit for pushing out the police perspective of a particular incident,' he said. 'They’re worn on the police officer, they are the police’s eyes and ears in a particular situation. In that respect, they already are geared toward the officer perspective.'" Read more about APD makes final push to get body cameras on all patrol officers

Jan 18, 2018
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Texas Observer

Guatemalan Family Takes ‘Sanctuary’ in Austin Church — Again

"But on Tuesday, Ramirez announced that ICE had refused to renew their protection in October; once again, she and Ivan, 11, will indefinitely confine themselves in the church.

'I’m grateful that the church is continuing to support me; I don’t feel alone,' said Ramirez Tuesday on a conference call attended by four immigrants living in sanctuary in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. 'The church is my family … and I’m going to continue fighting.'" Read more about Guatemalan Family Takes ‘Sanctuary’ in Austin Church — Again

Jan 17, 2018
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Rewire

Migrant Attempts Suicide After Forced to Interact With Alleged Abuser

“'This case is heartwrenching; we learned from Laura that she attempted to kill herself just after learning that she was going to be punished because she refused to eat in the same cafeteria where her abuser is now assigned.' Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. 'It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again. Laura can’t escape this pain, she can’t get the treatment she needs.'

[...] 'There are enough eyes looking at this that something should have happened already to make sure that Laura is in a safe place. No victim of sexual abuse should be forced to live with their abuser,' Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. 'We are asking Sen. Cornyn in the name of the rule of law to ask that ICE immediately release Laura pending this investigation.”' Read more about Migrant Attempts Suicide After Forced to Interact With Alleged Abuser

Jan 17, 2018
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The Patch

Immigrant Woman Held In Williamson County Attempts Suicide

"'This case is heart-wrenching,' said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. 'We learned from Laura that she attempted to kill herself just after learning that she was going to be punished because she refused to eat in the same cafeteria where her abuser is now assigned. It's just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again. Laura can't escape this pain, she can't get the treatment she needs.'" Read more about Immigrant Woman Held In Williamson County Attempts Suicide

Jan 17, 2018
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Fort Worth Weekly

Fast Track to Nowhere

“There is no reason that the TPS for El Salvador was cancelled,” said Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit working to eliminate private prisons and help create humane immigration policy. “While the circumstances that initially provided the TPS to El Salvador have changed, anyone looking at the conditions in El Salvador today can see that it is not safe to send these people back. They are being sent back to danger and, in some cases, death.” Read more about Fast Track to Nowhere

Jan 17, 2018
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Shadowproof

Immigrant Woman Attempts Suicide at Detention Center After Facing Punishment for Avoiding Guard Who Sexually Abused Her

“There are enough eyes looking at this that something should have happened already to make sure that Laura is in a safe place,” said Carson. “No victim of sexual abuse should be forced to live with their abuser.”

Claudia Muñoz, programs director at Grassroots Leadership, called the case “heart-wrenching.”

“It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again,” she said. “Laura can’t escape this pain. She can’t get the treatment she needs.” Read more about Immigrant Woman Attempts Suicide at Detention Center After Facing Punishment for Avoiding Guard Who Sexually Abused Her

Jan 12, 2018
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Houston Chronicle

Immigration detention deaths reach the highest total since 2009

"The number of deaths in 2017 has alarmed immigration activists, who have long accused immigration officials and detention center operators of providing delayed or substandard medical care and ignoring complaints of illness.

'Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business,' said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Libal, whose group monitors civil rights conditions, said the 'high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas' make him worried about plans to further increase the number of detainees held at privately owned facilities here. A 1000-bed for-profit detention center is planned to open in 2018 in Conroe, already home to another detention facility." Read more about Immigration detention deaths reach the highest total since 2009

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