On any given day, at least 34,000 people are detained in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. to meet an arbitrary lock-up quota dictated by Congress. Stopping the quota would be a giant step forward in ending our reliance on detention. Grassroots Leadership researches and exposes the role of for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in enacting the quota contributes to the growing national movement to stop immigrant detention.
Detention and the #EndTheQuota Campaign
"Companies that develop prisons, both for public and private operation, actively seek out economically depressed towns like Adelanto because they make for easier sells than places that might have other options.
'When the corporations pick up that a town is economically struggling, they come in promising economic security, jobs, and other benefits,' said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an NGO working to end for-profit incarceration. 'Affluent cities have the power to say no. That option doesn't really exist in smaller, depressed cities.'
And when a facility closes down, it saddles local government with the responsibility of dealing with the abandoned prison infrastructure and the erasure of whatever income the facility provided." Read more about Inside the Small California Town with a Lot of Prisons, but Not Much Opportunity
Last week, we tuned in to watch Grassroots Leadership's own Bob Libal testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the monstrous U.S. immigrant detention system. He told the Commission that the system was too dependent on for-profit private prisons and that all types of human rights abuses fester in this massive system. Read more about ICYMI: Bob Libal tells the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights what's wrong with immigrant detention (video)
The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal
Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.Read more about Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
We are appalled to learn of CCA’s recent humiliation of a female visitor, a regular, to one of their Tennessee facilities where she was forced by guards to expose her genitals to prove that she was menstruating. According to a federal lawsuit filed this week, despite already being cleared through one security checkpoint and offering to relinquish the sanitary napkin that prompted the scrutiny, she was not free to leave the facility without being searched.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?
"Headlines screamed of a "border crisis" as unaccompanied minors began arriving in record numbers in the summer of 2014, sparking protests in border towns like Murrieta, CA from citizens who wanted the newly arrived immigrants sent back to where they came from. The administration's response was to request $879 million from Congress to detain and deport. Congress denied the funds, but Homeland Security forged ahead with the construction of several new "family detention centers" anyway. The number of beds grew from fewer than 100 to more than 1,000 in less than a year. And a newly constructed center in Dilley, TX will have a capacity of more than 2,000.
Watch the Reason TV piece for a glimpse at who exactly is being held in these detention centers at record rates." Read more about No Asylum: Immigrants Locked Up in U.S. after Fleeing Violence
Grassroots Leadership's Cristina Parker tells WBAI host Donald Anthonyson about the new privately-run family detention center in Dilley, Texas and abuses coming out of the Karnes County Residential Center, a GEO-run detention center that began detaining families this summer. Christina Fialho and Christina Mansfield of CIVIC talk about their work establishing immigrant vistitation programs, the injustices of the legal system immigrants must navigate, and influences of private prison lobbying on mass immigrant detention. Interview begins at minute 13:00. Read more about Advocates discuss new family detention center in Dilley, Texas
Since 2009, the Obama Administration has considered a number of reforms to make civil immigration detention more “civil” and acceptable to the public, including the release of new guidelines for ICE facilities in 2011. Read more about The myth of “civilizing” civil immigration detention
We have a big challenge at Grassroots Leadership. There is a lot of work to be done, and fighting a billion dollar for-profit prison industry is not easy work. But there is also much to be thankful for. The hard work of Grassroots Leadership staff, volunteers, and allies is really helping change the world to make it more just. Here are a few of the things that we at Grassroots Leadership are thankful for this year.
1. Organizing Wins #ImmigrationAction, & Those Who Continue to Push for #Not1More Deportation! Read more about 9 Reasons Grassroots Leadership is Thankful Today!
Organizers referred to the practice as inhumane and believe the Karnes County Residential Center should be closed immediately.
Members of the group also alleged mistreatment of the people being held at the center.
"One of the biggest problems with this facility is that it's run by a private company, and the problem with that is that they aren't answerable to us, the people. They answer to their shareholders," said Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership. "So they have not given us any kind of response or anything, which is exactly why it needs to stop."
The proposed center would more than double ICE's capacity to detain family members. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin advocacy group, said it would be the largest ICE detention center in the country.
That CCA is involved is drawing criticism. The company operates the T. Don Hutto Residential Center north of Austin, which until 2009 held families. The center was mired in lawsuits alleging mistreatment of children held there. Read more about Questions about ICE contract in Dilley