Building Visitation Programs in Texas


The T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, is one of the hundreds of prisons for immigrants in the U.S. The facility now detains only women, most of whom are seeking asylum in the U.S., but it has a darker past as a place where immigrant families, including young children and babies, were once put behind bars. Shortly after winning the end of family detention at Hutto in 2009, Grassroots Leadership began coordinating visitors to Hutto who made sure that the women there knew they were not forgotten. Hutto visitors serve as human rights observers of the facility’s conditions, help break the isolation of detention for women in Hutto, and create new advocates for detention reform. Our program serves as a model for others and Grassroots Leadership is working with organizations across Texas to build new visitation programs.

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Immigration Detention Visitation Programs are Spreading Around Texas!

Guest Blogger, Elaine Cohen, attended a Hutto Visitation Program (HVP) orientation in October of 2011 and began visiting immigration detention centers in Texas almost immediately.  Since then she has visited with over a dozen women from Central America and Africa and provided invaluable support and coordination for Grassroots Leadership's collaboration with CIVIC (Community Initiatives to Visit Immigrants in Confinement) to visit three Texas cities to talk about immigration detention visitation.  Her degree in Religion and Women's Studies comes together in this work at the juncture of Human Rights and Social Justice.   

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director, Bob Libal and CIVIC's Co-Executive Director, Christina Mansfield, planned and carried out a three city tour to Houston, Austin and San Antonio on October 10, 11 and 12th.  The purpose of the tour was to generate interest in starting visitation programs in the Houston and San Antonio areas.  Bob and Christina's combined knowledge covered an ample spectrum on the private prison industry's involvement in immigrant detention centers and the actual conditions within these facilities across the country.


New Training Videos for Detention Visitation Volunteers

CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement) and the Jesuit Refugee Service have teamed up to produce a series of videos to train volunteers for immigrant detention visitation programs.  Our own Rocio Villalobos, who coordinates the Austin-based Hutto Visitation Program along with Grassroots Leadership, is featured in their video on recruitment.  The full press release from CIVIC is below, but first some words of wisdom from Rocio:  

Volunteer Recruitment and Screening for Detention Visitation Programs from Jesuit Refugee Service | USA on Vimeo.