Family Detention

In 2009, Grassroots Leadership ran a successful campaign to end family detention at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor Texas. When the Obama administration announced that it would stop detaining families at Hutto, only 100 family detention beds remained at a small facility in Pennsylvania. However, after the wave of Central American families and children seeking refuge at our border in the summer of 2014, the administration reversed its decision, opening facilities at Artesia, New Mexico; Karnes, Texas, and Dilley, Texas - all run by private prison corporations. While Artesia closed at the end of last year, the number of family detention beds has skyrocketed and is expected to reach over 3,000 by this May. Grassroots Leadership is once again working to end the inhumane policy of family detention.

Facts About Family Detention

Find out more about what family detention is, what the conditions are like, who opposes it, and more on our regularly-updated resource page: Facts about Family Detention

 

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Mar 10, 2016
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Texas Observer

Child Careless

Licensing detention centers as child care facilities in order to circumvent rules banning the government from locking up kids and babies in cells.

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It’s an idea so dystopian you’d have a hard time stomaching it in a science fiction novel, so naturally Texas is doing it. Governor Greg Abbott has even said that licensing these places as child care centers will protect “the health and safety” of the kids.

If that sounds like a hilariously bad justification built on flimsy reasoning and subterfuge, it’s because… it is. What licensing prisons as child care centers does, in reality, is give the federal government’s immigration apparatus the legal permission it needs to keep children detained.

Why else would state officials try to quietly create special prison child care licenses by sidestepping the normal administrative process, without holding any public hearings, as they did in 2015?

Thanks to the efforts of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit working to end immigrant detention, a judge blocked the state’s underhanded attempt at incarcerating kids. When the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was forced to put its decision up for public scrutiny, Abbott was just about the only guy who thought it sounded like a swell idea.

Dozens of legal experts, advocates and immigrants voiced their opposition to these child care licenses at meeting after meeting. And all for nothing, it seems.

If Texas doesn’t license these detention centers as child care facilities, it could be forced to shut them down entirely, something immigration advocates have long been calling on the Obama administration to do.

The alternative is, I guess, unfathomable to people who see scared kids — not coincidentally, kids of color — as threats to civil society. Who knows what these children might do if they’re allowed to wait out the asylum process in broad daylight. Play on a swing set? Build a sand castle? Set up — the horror — a lemonade stand?

One day, I hope we’ll look back at the way we treated these vulnerable families and be ashamed. We’ll be unable to fathom a society that put the concepts of “child care” and “detention centers” in the same sentence. That day can’t come soon enough. Read more about Child Careless

Feb 29, 2016
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Reading Eagle

Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

The Berks County Residential Center is not the only family detention center looking for licensing.

The country's only other family detention facilities, which are in Texas, are also working to get certification to hold children.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission recently announced that it will open a licensing pathway for the South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center to obtain licenses that allow them to hold families beginning Tuesday.

The move to license the facilities began in September when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services submitted a proposed emergency rule to the commission to create a new child care licensing category for family detention centers.

That proposal was soon met with an outcry from Grassroots Leadership, a group leading the charge against the centers in Texas.

"We won a temporary injunction because the court recognized there was no emergency other than (U.S. District Judge Dolly M.) Gee's order," said Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership's immigration programs director. Read more about Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

Feb 22, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

Outside Governor Greg Abbott’s office on Monday, immigrant and child advocates spread out blankets, coloring books and snacks, declaring the public space a “pop-up child-care facility.”

Organizers said they planned to spend the day roaming the Capitol grounds and asking parents whether they would be willing to leave their children with the volunteers, less than half a dozen people with little to no child care experience. The event, hosted by the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, was meant to underscore what advocates said is the absurdity of a new state rule that allows child-care licenses to be issued for immigrant family detention centers in South Texas.

“We all know (family detention) is a sham,” said Chuck Freeman, executive director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry. “We all know it’s dishonest. We all know we wouldn’t want our children there.” Read more about Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

Across the US, demands to end family detention and a focus on licenses

(AUSTIN, Texas) — This morning, a group of faith leaders and community members protested  at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Capitol office the state’s decision to open the door for licensing immigrant family detention lockups as childcare facilities. In response, protesters set up their own unlicensed child care center outside of his public reception room. Read more about Across the US, demands to end family detention and a focus on licenses

Leave your children with Gov. Abbott under the new, lowered childcare standards for family detention

WHAT: Popup child care facility in front of Texas Gov. Abbott’s office

WHEN:   Monday, February 22nd, 10:00 am

WHERE: Governor's Public Reception Room, 1100 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Texas Health and Human Services Commission has approved a proposed rule to reduce childcare standards that allow licensing for-profit family detention camps in South Texas to move forward. Read more about Leave your children with Gov. Abbott under the new, lowered childcare standards for family detention

Feb 12, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

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The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

The South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center — which can house up to 3,300 families awaiting immigration proceedings — had been in danger of closing because of a July federal court ruling that says children can only live in detention centers if they are licensed by state child welfare agencies. Texas’ facilities are not.

Until now, the state Department of Family and Protective Services had maintained that it didn’t have the legal authority to license, inspect and investigate the facilities. This week, the agency gave itself that power.

The two detention centers, both run by private prison companies, will have to apply for licenses, Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said. But that licensure is almost assured. For months, the state has insisted that regulation would help protect the children who live there. More recently, officials have also said keeping the centers open helps with immigration control. Federal officials asked Texas to license the facilities, Crimmins told the Statesman last month.

Immigration rights advocates criticized the state’s decision, saying the move is solely motivated by politics.

“I think the agency should be ashamed,” said Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prison companies. Read more about Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

Feb 16, 2016
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RH Reality Check

For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission approved a proposed rule Friday to reduce child-care standards, permitting two for-profit detention centers detaining hundreds of children in the state to move forward with the licensing process.

Grassroots Leadership, the Texas-based organization that won a temporary injunction in November in its suit to stop the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from licensing Karnes County Residential Center and Dilley’s South Texas Family Residential Center as child-care facilities under an emergency rule, said in a press release that Friday’s ruling could set a dangerous precedent.

The emergency rule would have eliminated minimum child safety standards applicable to all child-care facilities in Texas. Because Grassroots Leadership received the temporary injunction, Karnes and Dilley were forced to go through the traditional licensing procedure, which enabled immigrant rights organizers, child welfare advocates, academic researchers, and immigrant families released from detention centers to attend December’s public hearing at DFPS and comment on the proposal to license the family detention centers as child-care facilities.

An open records request obtained by Grassroots Leadership found that DFPS received more than 5,000 pages filled with comments, letters, emails, and testimony that were “overwhelmingly against” adopting the proposed rule. Read more about For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

Feb 16, 2016
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Houston Public Media

Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, DFPS, announced last Friday it will allow two facilities that house undocumented families, including minors, to obtain a license to remain open.

Most of the detainees at these facilities –located in Dilley and Karnes City, south of San Antonio—arrived in the United States during the surge of undocumented immigrants of 2014.

Last July, Federal Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, was breaking the terms of a 1997 settlement.

The settlement requires undocumented minors to be removed from detention centers as quickly as possible.

If the federal government can’t do that, the children must be housed in facilities licensed by state agencies responsible for child welfare.

In Texas, that agency is the Department of Family and Protective Services, which, just last week, established a new category of facilities called family residential centers.

Dilley and Karnes City will be under that category and, therefore, allowed to apply for the pertinent license after March 1st, which is when the new category will go into effect.

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Bob Libal is the executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which opposes keeping undocumented families in detention centers.

Libal argues the new category will help the federal government keep the facilities open.

“This was essentially an effort to help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the private prison corporations keep these facilities open when we know these facilities are dangerous for children,” said Libal, referring to the decision by DFPS. Read more about Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

Feb 8, 2016
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ThinkProgress

Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

Texas state officials are moving ahead with a proposal to license controversial detention centers for detained immigrant families as child care facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council submitted a proposed rule last week that would create a child care licensing category at two family detention centers located in Dilley and Karnes City. The proposed rule is up for consideration with the state’s Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), though it’s as yet unknown when the commission will make a final decision, the Texas Observer reported.

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The category change has been widely condemned by child welfare and immigrant rights activists who gathered before the meeting to demand that state officials scrap plans. An Open Records Request obtained by the activist organization, Grassroots Leadership, found that Texas DFPS Commissioner Judge John Specia, Jr. and Texas Governor Greg Abbott “received more than 5,000 pages worth of comments in opposition to the proposal,” according to a press statement. Read more about Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

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