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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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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Northwest Detention Center hunger strike ends: "TO ALL OF YOU, THANK YOU FOR NOT LEAVING US ALONE"

After 56 days, the hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, operated by the GEO Group, has come to an end. This strike inspired the hunger strike at Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas, which lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to retaliate against the strikers

The Tacoma strike began on March 7 and the men, who now call themselves the "Collective of NWDC-T Detainees" announced on May 1 that they were ending the hunger strike. In so doing, the Collective also issued a letter to their supporters, titled "Assessment of one phase of struggle," which recounts ICE's retaliation exacted upon strike participants. The Collective maintains its committment to its goal, including an end to deportations and for President Barack Obama to take action. Roughly 1200 men participated in the strike. 

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Why I got arrested at the White House protesting the immigrant detention bed quota

Last Friday, I was one of five people arrested at the White House protesting our nation’s immigration detention bed quota.  Here's why.  

For years, I’ve watched while our nation’s immigrant detention and incarceration system has expanded and private prison corporations’ profits have soared.  I’ve seen friends’ lives destroyed while their spouses or parents have been detained and deported.  I’ve met immigrants suffering in some of the nation’s most dismal for-profit detention centers and visited detained women seeking asylum after fleeing persecution and domestic violence only to end up languishing in a detention center.

Whenever concerns are raised that immigrants’ basic human rights are being violated in detention centers, we are told that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can’t close these dismal detention centers because it must lock up 34,000 people every single day. 

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Life after detention is not so simple

At the end of April, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) held its first retreat in Southern California. Bob Libal, Rocio Villalobos and I attended as representatives of the Hutto Visitation Program. We were joined by almost 60 participants who came from all corners of the U.S. There were many people who came from 
Florida, Chicago, New Jersey, Alabama, Louisiana and of course, various parts of California. It was surprising to hear about the different regulations and stumbling blocks to visiting that existed in the different detention centers. In the next months, we will be sharing some of what we learned from the other visitors.
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Humpday Hall of Shame: Judge says ICE, CCA are off the hook for sexual assaults in immigrant detention

The 5th Circuit Court is not holding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responsible for sexual assaults reported by eight women who were formerly detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. 

According to Courthouse News, the women filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, claiming that they were sexually assaulted while being transported by a male guard with no female guard present. According to the contract between the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and ICE, a female guard was to be present during transport of female detainees. The women claimed that 22 male guards had completed 77 such transports. Each plaintiff in the case had been granted asylum and was being transported out of detention at the time of assault. The man accused of these assaults, former CCA guard Donald Dunn, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2011. 

A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit Court dismissed the claims against ICE, insisting that the contractual violations did not necessarily indicate that the women were in danger. Judge Emilio Garza clearly was not concerned: 

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Courtney Greene: The top 3 reasons to join TUFF in the fight against the immigrant detention quota

Guest blogger Courtney Greene is a regular volunteer with Texans United for Families (TUFF) and a regularly visits women in detention through the Hutto Visitation Program. 

Efforts continue around the country to end the immigrant detention quota. On Friday, May 9, protestors marched and rallied in Washington, D.C. to #EndTheQuota. Five were arrested including Grassroots Leadership Executive Director, Bob Libal.

Earlier in the week, pro-immigrant groups and individuals from across the U.S. called and emailed their congressional representatives to demand the immigrant detention quota be stopped. 

The quota requires the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fill 34,000 beds in immigrant detention centers each day. The quota is unjust, inhumane and primarily benefits the for-profit companies that run the detention centers.  In TUFF’s view, here are the top 3 reasons to advocate for the immediate end of the immigrant detention quota:  

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Part 2 of KSAT-San Antonio exposé follows the private prison money trail

On Friday, KSAT – San Antonio ran Corportations profit from immigration system, part two of reporter Steve Spriester’s Defender’s Investigation into the shady practices of private prison corporations. Spriester’s exposé – which featured Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal – revealed the way in which private prison corporations strategically pour money into campaign contribution and lobbying efforts that will produce benefits for their bottom line by ensuring a large and steady flow of detainees.

As Spreister put it, “A stalemate on immigration reform in this country is very good for their business.”

Added Libal, "They're banking on there being a steady and increasing number of immigrants behind bars."

 

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Humpday Hall of Shame: ICE Retaliates against Hunger Strikers

Just when we thought Immigration and Customs Enforcement couldn't stoop any lower, they pulled another sick stunt. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are retaliating against men on hunger strike at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas. Men detained at the facility have been on hunger strike since March 18, demanding better medical care, commissary prices, and a stop to deportations. One hundred and twenty men are said to be on hunger strike at the facility as of 

March 20, following in the footsteps of strikers at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9) was also appalled by the conditions within the Tacoma facility. Both facilities are owned by the GEO Group, a private prison corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida.  

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