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

 

Related Posts

Jul 3, 2015
/
The Austin Chronicle

The End of Family Detention?

"Immigrant advocates applauded changes to the Obama administration's family detention policy unveiled last week that has the lowering of bonds as the cornerstone of the revamping. Categorizing the change as a first step toward reform, activists continue to call to an end to the practice of holding immigrant families.

...

Bob Libal, executive director of Grass­roots Leadership, also is calling for an end to the program. In May, his members joined more than 600 protesters – including a caravan of parishioners from Austin-based St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church – gathered outside the recently opened South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, calling for its closure. 'I think there is some positive movement of Johnson's announcement,' he said. "They are feeling the impact of what has been unanimous outrage over the decision to incarcerate kids and moms. But I don't think it goes far enough."

Libal points out the built-in incentive to keep families detained, given the for-profit nature of the detention camps – operated by publicly held companies that bill the government $300 a day to detain each immigrant. 'There is no way to humanely detain a kid in one of these detention camps,' he adds." Read more about The End of Family Detention?

Elected officials join advocates' call to end, not mend family detention

Drawing by 8-year-old in family detention given to Rep. Roybal-Allard on recent Congressional tour

Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued a press release announcing a number of modifications to family detention. The announcement claims that the agency will do away with long-term detention in most cases and set “reasonable” bonds for families that pass credible fear examinations. Our take on this is expressed perfectly by our executive director, Bob Libal in Grassroots Leadership’s statement: “It is impossible to make family detention reasonable or humane. Mass family detention is an extremely recent development and is emblematic of our society’s rush to use incarceration as the solution to any difficult issue. The Administration ended mass family detention once in 2009, and they can and should end it again today.”

 

An outpouring of legislators, advocacy organizations, and faith groups also released statements that these changes are not sufficient, and that the only solution is to end the inhumane detention of asylum seeking mothers and children altogether. Read more about Elected officials join advocates' call to end, not mend family detention

VIDEO: Survivor of Japanese incarceration during WWII takes us from Crystal City to Dilley

Dr. Satsuki Ina, a psychotherapist and professor emeritus at California State University — Sacramento was born in an incarceration camp in California, before moving with her mother to a camp in Crystal City, Texas. An advocate against family detention, Dr. Ina returned to Texas for a rally on May 2nd rally in Dilley, Texas. In this powerful video by Matthew Gossage, Dr. Ina visits Crystal City for the first time since childhood and talks about why detaining families is wrong.

A statement released by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) earlier this month condemned the U.S. Government’s practice of detaining asylum-seeking families Read more about VIDEO: Survivor of Japanese incarceration during WWII takes us from Crystal City to Dilley

DHS Secretary admits that family detention is flawed, yet plans to continue inhumane policy

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Yesterday’s statement by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson lays out “substantial changes” to the Administration’s family detention policy, but falls short of ending the detention of refugee families or closing the detention camps run by the for-profit prison corporations that benefit from mass family detention. Read more about DHS Secretary admits that family detention is flawed, yet plans to continue inhumane policy

Jun 19, 2015
/
The Guardian

Controversial UK security firm lobbying for US migrant detention contracts

A controversial British security company implicated in numerous immigration detention controversies in the UK and Australia is lobbying to secure potentially lucrative contracts to detain migrant families in the United States, documents obtained by the Guardian show.

...

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant advocacy group working with detained families, described Serco’s attempted entry to the industry as “very concerning”, arguing their proposal was little different from the system already in place.

“There is simply no way to ‘dress up’ family detention. It’s not whether or not the walls are painted or if there are benches in the cafeteria that take a tool. Locking up families always takes a toll, and the government should end family detention, not simply switch contractors,” Libal told the Guardian.

“Furthermore, Serco’s history in Australia and the UK certainly doesn’t inspire confidence that they will do anything different,” he added. Read more about Controversial UK security firm lobbying for US migrant detention contracts

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act

As taxpayers we entrust the government to utilize our hard earned wages wisely.  Commonly, when we believe our tax dollars are misused, we exercise the rights afforded to us as a democratic society to hold those with power - lawmakers, leaders of agencies, etc. - to account.  One of the tools of our democracy’s accountability measures is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law that give us the right to access information from the federal government.  FOIA requests are often used to uncover corruption, scandals, mismanagement and other shortcomings in the functioning of our public systems.  

However, our ability to hold the government accountable becomes compromised when it outsources core functions, like incarceration, to private companies.  Currently, federal U.S. agencies (Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshalls) have outsourced the management of prison and immigrant detention facilities to private, for-profit companies like Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and MTC (Management and Training Corporation).  Private corporations are not subject to FOIA laws even though they assume the role of the federal government in the administration of U.S. federal carceral facilities and are compensated with public tax dollars.  This fact creates tremendous barriers to justice for those who are incarcerated in privately-run federal facilities because the people who are tasked with protecting their rights do not, in this moment, have the right to request information about what is happening inside of these facilities.  This lack of transparency contributes, in our opinion, to the rampant cases of mismanagement, neglect, and other types of prisoner abuse that we have tracked for decades in private facilities, such as those documented in our Dirty 30 report.  

Read more about U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act

May 20, 2015
/
Fort Worth Weekly

Asylum Seekers Detained

"...The newest ICE facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center, near Dilley, will house 2,400 mothers and children when completed. It will be run by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operator in the United States. The CCA will receive $276 per day per person from the federal government to run Dilley, a staggering $241 million per year. The CCA ran the T. Don Hutto facility when ICE was sued over conditions there.

While exact figures were not available for the smaller, GEO Group-run Karnes County Residential Facility, which houses 592 women and children, the cost per day per bed is probably similar to what CCA is getting for Dilley.

'I visited the Karnes facility last September,' said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization working to end the private prison industry. 'And, yes, there are paintings on the walls, and there’s a small soccer field for the kids, but the reality is that prolonged detention is always detrimental to kids and their moms. And at Karnes, some of the women have been held for as long as nine months.'

Libal noted that those families seeking refugee status are not generally considered flight risks and are normally 'given a notice to appear at a detention court and told to check in with an ICE worker and let go,' frequently to sponsors or family members already living in the United States. When they appear for their hearing, the mothers are interviewed about why they are seeking asylum. If they pass that 'credible fear' interview, their request for asylum moves on through the system. If they do not pass the interview, they are scheduled for deportation...

...Christina [sic] Parker, the immigrations program director for Grassroots Leadership, helped organize a protest at Dilley on May 2, which was attended by more than 600 people. 'When you look at the Dilley facility, it doesn’t look like a prison,' she said. 'There are rows of little trailers set up, sort of like a camp. But there are still armed guards, and the kids are still locked up. And they shouldn’t be.'

Parker pointed to a decision in a lawsuit brought against the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the precursor to ICE, in 1987 by the ACLU over the detention of illegal immigrant children. The 1997 determination, known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, required that juveniles 'be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and special needs, generally, in a non-secure facility licensed to care for dependent, as opposed to delinquent, minors.'

Parker said that the suit had been revived in light of the recent expansion of family detention. 'There’s a decision expected in a week,' she said. 'The law says children cannot be held in secure, prison-like facilities. They must be held in licensed child-care facilities.'" Read more about Asylum Seekers Detained

May 15, 2015
/
The Monitor

Editorial: More immigration judges will help courts, country

"The privately-run detention facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, is paid $275 per day per detainee, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin. 'At full build out it will bring $660,000 per day or $240 million in annual revenue from this one detention camp,' Libal said.

That’s all paid for with American taxpayer funds and is a prime example of why detainees need to be processed and adjudicated quickly through our courts.

As Cuellar told us: 'Right now the backlog is just tremendous so this will allow us to have hearings before the judges on a much faster pace so we can get rid of the backlog. Whatever the judge’s decide — whether they can stay or return — at least they get a day before a judge.'" Read more about Editorial: More immigration judges will help courts, country

Pages