Detention and the #EndTheQuota Campaign

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.

 

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Sep 10, 2014
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Fort Worth Weekly

Hire CCA, See No Evil

"Take the Corrections Corporation of America, for instance, the largest private prison corporation in the world. According to the Texas Observer, CCA probably will get the green light from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate a 2,400-bed family prison that ICE plans to build outside of the South Texas town of Dilley. This is the same CCA that ran a Kentucky prison that was shut down in 2009 because guards were found to be forcingprisoners to trade sex for privileges. It’s the same CCA that ran the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Tyler, where a supervisor went to prison for sexually molesting women detained there. That and a host of other atrocities caused the Obama administration not only to shut down that facility but to end the use of family detention centers altogether.

That policy, however, was reversed in late June, when a new family detention center was opened in Artesia, N.M. According to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security, the reversal came in response to the “influx of families that have recently illegally entered the United States.” In August, a Karnes City, Texas, detention center for men was converted to a family detention center.

So, hey, let’s give the CCA a new prison in Texas to run! You know, one where there will be lots ofvulnerable women and children. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization dedicated to eliminating the for-profit private prison industry, said in a press release, “Kids and their families will suffer while the multi-billion-dollar private prison company stands to make enormous profits.”" Read more about Hire CCA, See No Evil

Sep 9, 2014
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Texas Observer

Feds Planning Massive Family Detention Center in South Texas

The massive facility would double the existing federal capacity for immigrant families and is certain to anger immigrant advocates who say a for-profit lockup is inappropriate for families, especially young children. They point to the failed experiment with detaining immigrant families at T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center, a CCA-run facility about 45 minutes northeast of Austin. The Obama administration removed families from the former jail in 2009 after numerous allegations of human rights abuses, accounts of children suffering psychological trauma and a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic.

“Given the shameful history of family detention at Hutto, it’s beyond troubling that ICE would turn back to Corrections Corporation of America to operate what would be by far the nation’s largest family detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes for-profit prisons. “While little kids and their families will suffer in this remote private prison, far away from legal or social services, this multi-billion-dollar private prison company stands to make enormous profits.”

Sep 6, 2014
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The Guardian

Huge family detention centre to open in Texas for undocumented migrants

The announcement enraged advocates, who argue that detention is no place for children.

“The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for returning to the policy of mass for-profit detention of immigrant families,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group opposed to for-profit prisons.

Family detention centres operated by private prison companies have a poor track record, especially in Texas. In 2009, federal officials removed all immigrants with children from a 490-bed Texas facility operated by CCA. The facility had been the focus of a damning 2007 report on family detention by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children that concluded detention was wildly inappropriate for children.

“While little kids and their families will suffer in this remote private prison, far away from legal or social services, this multibillion private prison company stands to make enormous profits,” Libal said. Read more about Huge family detention centre to open in Texas for undocumented migrants

Sep 2, 2014
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Think Progress

Private Prison Stocks Soar As Companies Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrants

One ICE official told KUT News that the agency had no choice in picking GEO because they had a contract with the county, which then subcontracted to GEO. Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership said subcontracting is one of the strategies private prison firms use to keep making money despite their negative reputations.

GEO has faced continuous allegations of malfeasance at its facilities, including legal violations and inmate abuse. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. Because the firms are profit-driven, they have an incentive to cut corners on the care of their inmates and detainees to save money. They have also lobbied heavily for policies that serve their interests. Read more about Private Prison Stocks Soar As Companies Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrants

Grassroots Leadership responds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans for 2,400 bed for-profit family detention center in S. Texas

Today, the Texas Observer broke a major story on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's plans to build a 2,400 bed family detention center in the remote South Texas town of Dilley.  Initial reports are that the the family detention center will be operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the same private prison corporation that operated the notorious T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. Read more about Grassroots Leadership responds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans for 2,400 bed for-profit family detention center in S. Texas

Families for families: The fight against detaining immigrant families begins today

This Saturday, Grassroots Leadership joined more than 50 other members and supporters of the Texans United for Families coalition for a vigil at the T. Don Hutto detention center, a private prison in Taylor, Texas.  The vigil marked the 5th anniversary of the long but successful campaign to end the shameful practice of detaining immigrant families — including small children — at the facility.  

The mood was solemn at the vigil as protesters were confronted with the renewal of mass family detention of refugee children and families from Central America.  The Obama Administration has announced the opening of a family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico and has begun detaining families at a GEO Group-operated facility in Karnes County, Texas. The administration has asked for funding for up to 6,300 family detention beds across the country.  

Read more about Families for families: The fight against detaining immigrant families begins today

Aug 7, 2014
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KEYE TV

Groups Want Creation of Family Detention Stopped

Several groups launched a campaign today to stop the creation of immigrant family detention centers.

"This is something that's been announced in the last month, that the Obama Administration is returning to the practice of detaining immigrant and refugee families in mass," says Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

... "We think that putting little kids behind prison walls particularly prison walls operated by a for profit prison corporation is absolutely the wrong thing," says Libal. Read more about Groups Want Creation of Family Detention Stopped

Aug 6, 2014
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KUT.org

A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

...[An] ICE official said the agency had no choice in picking GEO. The contract, he explained, is not through ICE but through Karnes County.

The view from the Karnes City facility's upper-level residences.
Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Bob Libal says subcontracting is part of the strategy GEO has used to stay in business despite persistent lawsuits. Libal leads Grassroots Leadership – a nonprofit organization that, among other things, researches the shortcomings of for-profit prison corporations.

"Whenever anything goes wrong ICE says, ‘This is not our problem, this is the county's problem,’” Libal says. “But really, you have layers of lack of transparency and lack of accountability that are built into these contracts.”

Libal says GEO is Texas' first choice to run detention centers, prisons and mental health facilities in part because they save the state money by cutting costs.

But he also notes the group is a very generous political contributor at the state and federal levels, and has one of the strongest lobbying teams he’s ever seen. Two members of the company’s board of directors are former members of the George W. Bush administration; Libal says there’s a sort of “buddy-buddy” relationship within GEO's county contract negotiations. Read more about A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

Building bridges in Dallas

At the end of May I was part of a small delegation that went to Dallas to attend the opening festivities of a newly formed group, the Center for Theological Activism.  At the dinner I met a number of progressive clergy who expressed real interest in learning more about the groups we represented.  Alejandro Caceres and Susana Pimiento were there from the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition and I was there to talk about immigrant detention and the Hutto Visitation Program.  Two of the clergy that seemed to be the most interested in the issue of detention were a Methodist Youth Minister, Jason Redick and the Rev. Jim Mitulski, the senior Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope.

Those of you who participated in the recent action in Waco at the Jack Harwell Center heard Jason Redick’s moving opening prayer.  About the same time as our action in Waco, I received an invitation from Rev. Mitulski’s congregation to be on a panel at the Cathedral of Hope.  They were holding a symposium titled ImagiNATION Immigration and the key speaker was the journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.   I spoke about my experiences visiting at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.  You can read my remarks here.

It was the first time I had been to the Cathedral of Hope, which is known as the largest LGBT congregation in Dallas, and probably in all of Texas.  The congregation was also racially diverse and included many families and children as well.  In fact, I believe the Cathedral of Hope may be the most integrated, inclusive religious congregation I have had the opportunity to visit.

Read more about Building bridges in Dallas

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