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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Oct 23, 2015
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Huffington Post

Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

One of the three facilities that detains immigrant families in the United States will not be allowed to expand and could lose its license to operate from the state of Pennsylvania -- a major win for the advocacy groups aiming to shut down family detention.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services sent a letter on Thursday to the director of Berks County Residential Center denying a request to double its capacity from 96 to 192. That is because the facility is being used to hold "only refugee immigrant families" when its license is for "child resident facilities," Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas wrote.

If the facility continues to serve families rather than children, the department will not renew its license when it expires in February 2016, Dallas added.

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In July, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the family detention policy violated the 1997 Flores settlement, which says that undocumented children must be held in the least restrictive setting and immigration authorities should generally favor a policy of releasing them. The settlement prohibits detaining children for more than a few days in centers that are not licensed child care facilities.

After hearing a government response, Gee ordered the Obama administration in August to quickly release the children -- and in some instances, the mothers -- locked in family detention. She gave U.S. officials until Oct. 23 to show compliance. 

In order to comply with the ruling, the private companies that run the two family detention centers in Texas -- Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group -- have applied to license the centers as child care facilities. The Texas Department of Child Protective Services issued an emergency rule last month to start the licensing process, but the Austin-based group Grassroots Leadership, which opposes the private prison industry, filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping it. Read more about Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

Sep 22, 2015
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Houston Press

ICE Awards Contract to Private Prison Company That Was Just Slammed in Federal Report

Last Thursday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report admonishing government officials over the treatment of immigrants held at private prisons that contract with federal immigration authorities. Detailed in the report were a litany of alleged abuses at those detention centers, many of which are in Texas, from denying immigrants proper medical care to retaliation from prison staff and possible constitutional rights violations.

Yet on that very same day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new multimillion-dollar contract with one of the companies accused of holding immigrants in “inhumane” conditions that are “inconsistent with American values.” Advocates and immigration attorneys say they fear the new contract, for a pilot program to test a probation-like system for immigrant families released from lockup, only further expands the private prison industry's reach in the U.S. immigration system.

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Perhaps the Geo contract, while troubling to advocates, shouldn't be entirely unexpected. Federal immigration officials have before ignored calls for ICE to wean itself off private prison companies. For instance, this 2009 report, commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security and written by a former director of the federal Office of Detention Policy and Planning, concluded that immigrant detainees — many of whom have never committed a crime (immigration violations are civil, not criminal, cases) — shouldn't be treated like criminals and that ICE, not private prison companies, should operate its own detention centers to safeguard against abuses and ensure greater oversight.

Yet six years later, private prison corporations now house nearly half of the nation's immigrant detainees

"It speaks to the power of this industry," says Bob Libal with the Austin-based civil rights group Grassroots Leadership. "Now, ICE is just giving these companies another way to profit off immigrants."  Read more about ICE Awards Contract to Private Prison Company That Was Just Slammed in Federal Report

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls detention of immigrant families a violation of their Civil and Constitutional rights

(AUSTIN, Texas) — The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released their recommendations on immigrant family detention, calling for the release of mothers and children from several detention camps. The Commission concluded that the the detention of immigrant families is a violation of their constitutional rights. The recommendations came just days before the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to appeal Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling that ordered federal officials to release the families.   Read more about U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls detention of immigrant families a violation of their Civil and Constitutional rights

Obama Administration should rescind award for family case management from private prisons

(AUSTIN, Texas) — In a disappointing move, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today awarded a private prison company a grant to establish a new caseworker management initiative for mothers and children released from family detention.

ICE announced Thursday that it signed an $11 million-a-year contract with GEO Care LLC to operate the program in Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Chicago and the Baltimore-Washington area for families released from detention or at the border. Read more about Obama Administration should rescind award for family case management from private prisons

Sep 17, 2015
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Huffington Post

Bernie Sanders Wants To End Private Prisons. That's Really Ambitious.

WASHINGTON -- Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Thursday that promises to ban government contracts for privately run prisons and jails within three years. Implementing such a plan would be an ambitious effort, as it would give authorities more than 100,000 additional inmates to manage -- the number held in private facilities as of 2013. The bill's immigration provisions are similarly bold.

"We have got to do everything that we can as a nation to end that reality of locking up so many people, and we have got to do it as rapidly as possible," Sanders said at a press conference on Thursday.

The Justice Is Not For Sale Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and other lawmakers, would ban federal, state and local governments from contracting with private companies to run prisons and other detention facilities. Within three years, facilities housing prisoners must be under government control. 

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The bed mandate and use of private prison contractors, in particular, are incentives for immigration agents to apprehend and detain as many people as possible, according to advocates for reform. The government is required to maintain 34,000 beds to hold immigrants who are undergoing deportation proceedings. 

Officials say they consider that mandate to refer to having the capacity to detain that number, not actually having those beds full at all times. But more people in detention means more money for the companies housing immigrants awaiting deportation, because 62 percent of beds are in privately run facilities, according to the civil rights group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Bernie Sanders Wants To End Private Prisons. That's Really Ambitious.

7 good things that will happen if we ban private prisons with the #JusticeNot4Sale Act

Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill) introduced the Justice is Not for Sale Act, a comprehensive bill that outlaws the use of for-profit prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers. Read more about 7 good things that will happen if we ban private prisons with the #JusticeNot4Sale Act

Grassroots Leadership applauds “Justice is Not For Sale” Act to end for-profit prisons

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership today applauded the introduction of the Justice is Not for Sale Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.). The bill bars the federal government and state and local jurisdictions from contracting with private corporations to run prisons and detention facilities, reinstates the federal parole system, and makes several changes immigration detention law. Read more about Grassroots Leadership applauds “Justice is Not For Sale” Act to end for-profit prisons

GEO Group tells shareholders that everything is fine in Karnes family detention center

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Tuesday for-profit private prison company GEO Group reported their second quarter earnings for 2015 on a conference call for shareholders. Despite a federal judge recently ordering the government to release mothers and children from family detention camps, GEO executives confidently spoke about plans to expand the Karnes County family detention camp saying, “In Texas we are on schedule to complete a $36 million expansion to our company-owned Karnes ICE residential Center by December 1st. Read more about GEO Group tells shareholders that everything is fine in Karnes family detention center

Jul 28, 2015
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San Diego Free Press

Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

"A social worker formerly employed at a for-profit family immigrant detention center in Texas blew the whistle this week on the prison’s inhumane conditions—from solitary confinement to medical neglect—that she said amount to child abuse and torture.

The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the country that has faced numerous accusations of atrocities and civil rights violations. It is also the site of recent—and repeated—hunger strikes led by mothers incarcerated with their children, in protest of their conditions, detentions, and in many cases, their looming deportations.
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Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, toldCommon Dreams that there are signs that the tide may be finally turning against these 'wrong, immoral, and traumatizing' prisons." Read more about Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

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