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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When it comes to detention, it's about the stories behind the statistics

The following are remarks made by Elaine J. Cohen, a consultant with Grassroots Leadership's Hutto Visitation Program, at ImagiNation: Immigration, an event held at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas featuring immigration reform activist Jose Antonio Vargas and his film DOCUMENTED.   

I have been visiting women at the Hutto Detention center in Taylor, Texas for almost three years — and it has changed my world view and understanding, not only of geo-politics, but of the human experience.  I want to tell you a little about what I’ve learned visiting women in immigrant detention and how you can visit, too. 

I’ve met many women in detention over the years. Out of respect for the dignity and safety of the women that I visit, I will not say their names, though I believe mentioning their country of origin is timely and may help you understand better what has driven so many to come to the U.S.

The first woman I would like to tell you about is from Honduras, the same country that so many families and children are fleeing from right now.   I met her a few weeks ago and two different members of our visitation program have interviewed her.  The story she told each of them was the same.  She told us of the repeated rapes she endured as a young girl — and again by the coyotes who were supposed to bring her safely across the border.  Something else happened, she was picked up by the border patrol and she now sits in immigrant detention at Hutto, which is very much like a prison, hoping to be granted asylum. 

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Jul 30, 2014
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International Business Times

Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

... Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization that has campaigned against family detention and the for-profit prison industry, said the government would likely be eager to keep contracting family detention centers to private companies.

“It’s an easy solution for the government because there are private prison corporations that have excess capacity, particularly today, with declining state prison populations,” he said. “And it’s about influence -- private prison corporations are enormously powerful, particularly in immigration.” Libal noted that Julie Myers Wood, former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a member of GEO Group’s board of directors, and that David Venturella, former head of the "Secure Communities" enforcement program, is now a GEO Group senior vice president ....  Read more about Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

Humpday Hall of Shame: Disturbing reports emerge from Artesia, what can we expect from family detention at Karnes?

Reports have started to emerge from Artesia, New Mexico, suggesting that conditions are dangerous and unhealthy inside the family detention center that was created almost overnight at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Others have expressed concerns that procedures within the detention center present a threat to due process that could result in women and children who have sought refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border being sent back into harm's way. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has allowed some to tour the facility, including Tannia Esparza, executive director of Young Women United. Esparza told the Associated Press that the women she visited in Artesia reported that children were sick with coughs and diarrhea but were not given medication and that pregnant women are being targeted for quick deportation. 

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who ran on a hardline anti-immigrant platform, admitted after visiting the facility that it was "no place for young mothers and babies." 
 
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Grassroots Leadership decries return of for-profit immigrant family detention in Texas

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that the Karnes County Civil Detention Center southeast of San Antonio will be used to detain families and children fleeing violence in Central America.

The 600-bed Karnes County Detention Center is operated by for-profit private prison company GEO Group which has a long history of prisoner abuse, lawsuits alleging human rights violations, and deaths in custody. Read more about Grassroots Leadership decries return of for-profit immigrant family detention in Texas

Humpday Hall of Shame - Henry Cuellar wants kids deported ASAP, hauls in private prison cash

Today’s Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to a repeat dis-honoree: Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat from Laredo, Texas.  Yesterday, Cuellar teamed with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) to introduce the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act.  The HUMANE Act, despite its name, guts legal protection for unaccompanied migrant children and speeds their deportation. 

Cuellar’s public push to detain and deport migrant children drew a rebuke (The Hill, July 11, 2014) last week from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  CHC’s chairman Ruben Hinojosa, a fellow Texan told reporters at a press conference that:  "Henry Cuellar does not represent the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He's a Blue Dog; he comes to the meetings once in a long time."  

The CHC has called for maintaining legal protections for children from Central America and allowing kids to be able to fight their cases in courts rather than through an expedited deportation policy.    Experts have noted that Honduras — the country where the most unaccompanied children are migrating — has the highest murder rate in the world and that rapid deportation of children and families would result in some of those deportees being killed.   

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Forgetting the horrors of T. Don Hutto, Obama plots massive increase in immigrant family detention

President Barack Obama will be in Texas this week for a fundraising event in Austin.  He will also be meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry to discuss the government’s response to an increase in the number of Central American children and families coming to the Texas-Mexico border to seek asylum.  

While many communities in Texas have responded by opening their arms to provide shelter to unaccompanied children, the Obama administration has requested an additional $3.7 billion in money that would mostly be spent on border enforcement, detention, and deportation.  This comes despite the fact that federal spending on immigration enforcement already surpasses all other federal law enforcement activities combined.  

Included in the supplemental spending request is $897 million to detain and deport refugee families.  Reports have emerged from D.C. that the administration may be considering more than 6,000 new family detention beds, up from only 80 beds currently detaining families.   The administration has already begun sending asylum-seeking refugee families to be housed at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artisia, New Mexico.   

Apparently, the administration has forgotten the shameful history of family detention in the United States that spans from the Japanese internment to the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  Families were detained at Hutto - a privately operated prison located just outside Austin - from 2006 to 2009.  During that time reports quickly emerged that children as young as eight months old wore prison uniforms, lived in locked prison cells with open-toilets, were subjected to highly restricted movement, and threatened with alarming disciplinary tactics, including threats of separation from their parents if they cried too much or played too loudly. Medical treatment was inadequate and children as young as one lost weight.  The facility was sued by the ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic.

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Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis

A disappointing decision by the Obama administration was announced Friday morning in response to a recent influx of Central American migrants crossing through the Southwest border, many of them children. According to officials, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will seek to detain more of these individuals and accelerate their cases in immigration courts to speed up their deportations. Read more about Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis

Attorneys sound the alarm as ICE continues to detain immigrants in sub-standard Waco facility

Attorneys in Austin and Waco are sounding the alarm over the conditions at an immigrant detention center in Waco. They say the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility. 

“Our interest in the Harwell Detention Center stems from a history of concerns about the facility.” said Denise Gilman, a University of Texas-Austin law professor.  “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention.”

In fact, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by a private prison company who expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable. 

“If any facility is unable to comply with the standards, ICE should ensure that immigrants are not detained there.” said Barbara Hines, also a University of Texas law professor. “It does not appear that ICE officials adequately considered the situation at the facility before sending immigration detainees there.”

According to ICE’s own proclamations, a penal environment is not appropriate for immigrant detainees — the majority of whom have recently crossed the border and have no criminal history at all. “It is very clearly a penal institution,” added Hines.  Read more about Attorneys sound the alarm as ICE continues to detain immigrants in sub-standard Waco facility;

Humpday Hall of Shame: Public and private detention facilities using cheap detainee labor

This week’s Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight turns to the practice of using immigrant detainees for cheap — and sometimes free — labor in public and private immigrant detention facilities.

The practice was recently highlighted in a New York Times article where author, Ian Urbina,  writes:

As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.

While the government insists on implementing an arbitrary quota on the number of people to force into detention centers, it has difficulty sustaining its own operations without this source of forced labor. The practice of strong-arming these men and women into the upkeep of the very institutions that deprive them of their basic liberties underlines the larger injustice of mass immigrant detention.

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