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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¿Qué demonios está pasando dentro del centro de detención de Hutto?

Una carta proveniente del controversial centro de detención informa sobre nuevos casos de abuso sexual y  represalias en contra de las mujeres detenidas en el centro de inmigrantes cerca de Austin. El centro de detención T. Don Hutto, que encarcela a mujeres que buscan asilo, ha sido el centro de escándalos sobre abusos sexuales en el pasado. Un ex guardia incluso fue encarcelado por múltiples ataques.

Actualmente, una carta enviada por L.M. (las iniciales de la mujer) desde el interior del centro de detención Hutto describe las experiencias de agresión sexual y represalias de ella y otras mujeres. Ella también incluye los nombres de los guardias responsables de estos actos.

La instalación en Taylor, Texas, es operada para el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) por la compañía privada de prisiones conocida comúnmente como Corrections Corporation of America o CCA (que prefiere ser llamada por su nueva identidad corporativa "CoreCivic" para ocultar su tres décadas de larga historia). Los guardias en la instalación son empleados de la compañía de prisiones privadas.

La carta describe un patrón de agresión sexual que L.M. ha sufrido desde el mes de Junio. Ella escribe que una guardia femenina la forzó a realizar actos sexuales en contra de su voluntad. "Me acosaba, me decía palabras amenazantes y me obligaba a tener relaciones no deseadas con ella, lo que yo no quería, pero tenía que hacer lo que ella quería", describió. "Ella buscó y aprovechó cada momento que pudo para tocar mis pechos o mis piernas, ella  sabía dónde y cuándo hacerlo, no recuerdo las fechas exactas porque paso en muchas ocasiones. Ella trabaja en el área de recreación y lo que hizo conmigo lo hizo con otras residentes. Read more about ¿Qué demonios está pasando dentro del centro de detención de Hutto?

What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

A letter from inside a controversial detention center contains new reports of sexual assault and retaliation against women detained in an immigrant detention center near Austin. The T. Don Hutto detention center, which imprisons asylum-seeking women, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before.  One former guard was even incarcerated for multiple assaults.

Now, a letter sent by L.M. (the woman’s initials) from inside the Hutto detention center describes her and others’ experiences of sexual assault and retaliation and names two guards as perpetrators. The facility in Taylor, Texas, is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the private prison company commonly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, (which prefers to be called by its new corporate identity “CoreCivic” to obscure their three-decades long history). Guards at the facility are employees of the private prison company.

The letter describes a pattern of sexual assault that L.M. has endured since June. She writes that a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will. “She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her, which I did not want, but I had to do what she wanted,” she described. “She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.” Read more about What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

Advocates hold Day of the Dead Remembrance for lives lost at the hands of our immigration system

(AUSTIN, Texas) —  On this year’s Day of the Dead, Thursday, November 2, community members and immigrant rights advocates will gather on the steps of the Austin City Hall to remember the lives lost from our community at the hands of our immigration system.

Pipelines to detention and deportation still exist in our local policies, from arrests made for minor offenses, the lack of a strong policy to limit the use of local law enforcement resources for federal immigration enforcement, to honoring constitutionally dubious ICE detainers at the county jail.  Community leaders gather Thursday to remember the lives lost and pledge to do more to protect others from the same deadly deportation pipeline. Read more about Advocates hold Day of the Dead Remembrance for lives lost at the hands of our immigration system

Sep 28, 2017
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Reveal

ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is soliciting private-sector interest in a new detention center to hold 1,000 people in South Texas, according to a notice posted Wednesday on a federal contracting site.

The post is a preliminary request for information, asking for room to house men and women within 50 miles of I-35. ICE said its preference is for a facility dedicated to holding its detainees, but it would consider a large facility with inmates from another agency. The agency said it will consider pre-existing facilities, renovated old facilities or new construction.

The contract would mean more good news for the private prison industry, which has rebounded quickly under President Donald Trump. A year ago, the federal government seemed poised to end deals with the private prison industry’s biggest players, after federal inspectors noted safety concerns in their facilities.

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The new South Texas facility likely would be the largest since then, according to Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based nonprofit that tracks private prisons and advocates against expanding them.

“This would continue the trend of this administration’s giveaways to the private prison industry at the expense of immigrants that it’s targeting for deportation,” Libal said. The region already is home to many of ICE’s largest detention centers, in remote towns without easy access to legal help, he said.

“I would question the logic behind this,” he said, “because from what we’ve heard, for the most part, asylum-seeking folks, that population hasdeclined in the first few months, while internal apprehensions have increased.” Read more about ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

Aug 9, 2017
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Ft. Worth Weekly

Back Into the Shadows

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Actually, there’s a lot to see: Donald Trump has made illegal immigration a central policy of his administration, and the changes that he is instituting are only going to make things worse, according to several people who work on behalf of illegal immigrants. Those changes include a harsh immigration crackdown with more jail time for detainees and rejecting asylum seekers. And the federal attitude is emboldening states to fire up their own harsher immigration laws, according to the accounts of more than a dozen organizations I contacted that are working on behalf of both illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.

One key change, according to those organizations, is that the Obama administration, which deported a record number of illegal immigrants, set the deportation priority on getting rid of people like Jiménez-Joseph, who had been convicted of a criminal felony. While Trump has said he will focus on those same convicted felons, he has actually made all illegal immigrants, from students to mothers of American kids, deportable. Additionally, some jail standards are being relaxed or ignored, worsening the living conditions of people in the deportation pipeline, and a whole lot more people are being detained because bonds for illegal immigrants have shot up. 

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Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher with Grassroots Leadership, an organization dedicated to eliminating private prisons, said it’s common practice since Trump took office: “There are so many asylum seekers turned away at the border that there are some immigrants’ rights organizations that are developing protocols that will allow them to accompany asylum seekers at the border to ensure that those seekers have their international rights, legal rights, protected.”

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“We are seeing asylum seekers denied bond even after their credible fear interviews are passed,” Carson said. “They now have to wait for a judge to give them a bond amount, instead of an immigration official like it used to be done. That meant less waiting time in detention prior to being released to await your court date. But we are also seeing higher bonds being asked, and those bonds have to be paid in full.” 

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“I think that is a direct result of the changes to the immigration court system based on the officials that Trump has selected,” Carson said. “These are a direct result of Trump’s position on immigration.”

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“We’ve already seen in words and actions how enforcement of detention and deportation has expanded in the last several months,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “We were already at record levels of detained illegal immigrants with the Obama administration, but that is quickly expanding. Read more about Back Into the Shadows

Jul 27, 2017
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Telemundo

Programa ayuda a mujeres detenidas en centro de inmigración T. Don Hutto

La organización Grassroots Leadership coordina un programa de visitas al centro de inmigración T.Don. Hutto para visitar a mujeres indocumentadas detenidas.

La iniciativa comenzó en el 2009 con el propósito de ofrecer amistad y esperanza a las detenidas, al mismo tiempo que se cercioran que sus derechos no sean violados en el recinto.

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Como es el caso de la hondureña Jeymi Moncada quien paso un año en este centro tras cruzar la frontera de manera ilegal en el 2009.

“Me vine a Estados Unidos por una sola razón, porque sufría violencia doméstica en mi país por parte de mi ex pareja,” expresó Moncada.

Moncada dijo que esta iniciativa le devolvió la esperanza de reencontrarse con su familia cuando estaba detenida:” La verdad me ayudó mucho, platicamos de muchas cosas, qué cómo estaba, qué cómo nos trataban adentro”.

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Por lo pronto, se prepara para unirse al grupo de voluntarios que visitan a detenidas para ayudarlas de la misma forma que la ayudaron a ella. Read more about Programa ayuda a mujeres detenidas en centro de inmigración T. Don Hutto

Jul 18, 2017
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ColorLines

The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

The Waller County (Texas) Jail was recently approved for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program—despite failing its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reached an agreement with Waller County to deputize the sheriff’s office for the controversial immigration enforcement program 287(g). Theprogram authorizes deputies to act on the behalf of ICE to arrest and detain people based on their immigration status. In turn, county officials are given broad powers to jumpstart deportation proceedings for immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t have been on the radar of federal agents.

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The Waller County Jail was required to revamp its protocols and provide additional medical care in the wake of Bland’s death. Yet even after those reforms were implemented, major problems continued to persist.

The county jail came under investigation in March after a female prisoner alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a man who was also incarcerated in the jail. The man was performing cleaning duties for the jail at the time of the alleged incident. County officials later acknowledged that the inmate was never authorized to take on those duties in the first place.

The jail later failed its inspection with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, state documents show. Jail staff was found non-compliant in three separate areas, including violations for not keeping male and female inmates separate at all times, unless under direct supervision.

Within days of both the assault and the failed inspection, ICE officials formally approved Waller County’s application to join 287(g).

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Texas activists are now concerned that the program’s loaded background doesn’t help Waller County’s already strained relations between police and people of color. Despite all that the community has been through, particularly after Bland’s death, it’s unclear whether officials have learned their lesson, says Bob Libal, executive director of the Texas-based civil rights groupGrassroots Leadership.

“What 287(g) does is literally turn local police into deportation agents,” Libal added. “That’s obviously profoundly disturbing and certainly seeds distrust with law enforcement.” Read more about The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

Jul 14, 2017
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The Austin Chronicle

Narrowly Evading Deportation Over July Fourth Weekend

Thursday, June 29, began like any other day for the Guerrero family. Martin Guer­rero Alvarado, the patriarch, left early for work at his construction firm. His daughter Alicia hopped in her car a half-hour later, and went off to her internship at theGrassroots Leadership office in East Austin, 45 minutes outside her family's home in Dripping Springs.

But a mile into her drive, Alicia noticed that a Hays County Sheriff's deputy had pulled someone over. It caught her eye because the vehicle, she told theChronicle, looked like her father's truck. As she got closer, the 26-year-old graduate student saw her father handcuffed next to his truck.

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Guerrero Alvarado expected to be released from the Hays County Jail in San Marcos within 48 hours. After all, a Hays County judge had already waived his bail bond, and all he would need to do, he was told, was make a court appearance and be free to go.

"But that didn't happen," he said. Instead, he was placed on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold, though he was in the process of obtaining legal residency. Per department policy, the HCSO had notified the federal agency of his undocumented status – information Guer­rero Alvarado offered, noted HCSO spokesperson Lt. Dennis Gutierrez. (Under the Secure Communities program, ICE automatically gets fingerprints of people who've been arrested or booked, then uses that information to determine whether it will take enforcement action.) ICE requested a detainer, which the HCSO honored.

Immigration rights activists say Guerrero Alvarado's situation is indicative of what will happen once Senate Bill 4 – the anti-immigration legislation signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May – takes effect Sept. 1. SB 4 would require local law enforcement agencies to comply with otherwise optional ICE detainer requests, as well as letting officers question a person's immigration status when they're detained – like, say, during a traffic stop. Opponents say that last provision of the law codifies racial profiling, and will also lead to hundreds of thousands more immigrants being arrested, detained, and deported from the United States, a country they call home.

"This is the kind of case that we expect to see all the time under SB 4," said Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. "Immigrant families have a lot to lose."

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But to his family, ICE's timing seemed off. According to detainer policy, an immigrant booked or arrested at a local jail is taken into ICE custody within 48 hours after their detainment, not including weekends or holidays. Since Guerrero Alvarado's bond was waived on Friday, and the Fourth of July fell that following Tuesday, ICE agents should have scheduled his pickup for the morning of Wednesday, July 5.

At least that's what Alicia, her family's immigration attorney, and members of Grassroots Leadership deduced from ICE's own policy. "Monday and Wednesday. It would have been those two days," Alicia said. "We just immediately underwent this shock. We didn't know what to do."

That Saturday, Alicia, her family, and Grassroots Leader­ship held a protest outside of the Hays County Jail, demanding Guerrero Alvarado's release. Grassroots also organized hundreds of calls and emails to Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler objecting to Guerrero Alvarado's detainer.

A few hours after the protest ended, ICE dropped its hold on Guerrero Alvarado without explanation. Though his release is the "outcome that we hoped for," said Carson, "it still came as a surprise. It's very rare that ICE would release someone after requesting a detainer." Read more about Narrowly Evading Deportation Over July Fourth Weekend

Jul 10, 2017
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Rewire

A Diabetic Migrant Was Taken Into ICE Custody—Then They Trashed Her Medication

Brenda Menjivar Guardado, a 21-year-old from El Salvador, has decided to self-deport from the United States because of the “extremely negligent treatment” she has received for her Type 1 diabetes while detained in Texas.

While migrating to the United States, Guardado properly managed her condition until she was detained in early June at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, after presenting herself at the border as an asylum seeker. Once in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at Hutto, a privately run detention center with a history of alleged mistreatment, her medication was thrown away.

She received a different medication in detention, which advocates say was not effective. Guardado’s glucose levels spiked to 452—the normal range is between 90 and 100—according to a statement from Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigrant rights organization. “When she demanded appropriate medication, like she had received previously, Hutto officials told her to drink more water and stated she should go back to El Salvador if she wanted better medical care,” Grassroots Leadership reported.

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American Gateways was made aware of Guardado’s health concerns when Guardado approached Whitney Drake, a staff attorney with the organization, which provides weekly legal education and workshops at three area detention centers, including Hutto. Women in these facilities are encouraged to discuss with attorneys any possible human rights abuses. Guardado shared with Drake that she was experiencing what could only be described as “life-threatening symptoms” related to her improper care, including rapid weight loss, blurred vision, and difficulty breathing. When Guardado was 13, she entered a diabetic coma, and according to advocates, she was fearful her in-custody symptoms indicated she would enter another.

American Gateways filed a request to have Guardado immediately released on grounds of medical emergency. The request was denied. She then withdrew her Credible Fear application, the first step in the asylum process, so she could be deported more quickly. Advocates said Guardado fears for her life in El Salvador, but has chosen to self-deport because it’s the only way she is certain to access the medical care she requires.

... Read more about A Diabetic Migrant Was Taken Into ICE Custody—Then They Trashed Her Medication

Diabetic woman detained at Hutto in urgent need of emergency care for improper treatment: Attorney’s request for medical release was denied this morning

(Austin, Texas) —  Yesterday Austin advocates launched a campaign demanding the release of Brenda Menjivar Guardado, a young woman from El Salvador who is experiencing serious symptoms related to improper treatment of diabetes by medical staff at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. Read more about Diabetic woman detained at Hutto in urgent need of emergency care for improper treatment: Attorney’s request for medical release was denied this morning

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