Detention and the #ShutDownHutto 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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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.

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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. 

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

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

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.

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

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