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

Dec 5, 2016
/
ABC News

Texas Appeals Ruling That Bans License for Detention Centers

The Texas attorney general on Monday appealed a judge's ruling that prevents state officials from issuing child care licenses to two federal detention centers in South Texas holding families that have illegally entered the U.S.

...

State District Judge Karin Crump on Friday ruled the department cannot issue the licenses. Crump's ruling did not offer an explanation for her decision, but she had previously issued an injunction against the licenses from being issued, determining at one point that the state agency had improperly fast-tracked changes to create a path for the facilities to get licensed.

...

The lawsuit that brought Crump's ruling was filed by Austin-based activist group Grassroots Leadership, which contends the facilities are prisons that are inappropriate for family detention and that minimum standards have been lowered to license them. The group's director, Bob Libal, said Monday that it's part of broader legal efforts to have federal officials adhere to a longtime agreement that called for children and their families to be held only for a short time before being released to family, friends or others while their cases are decided.

"Evidence is continuing to mount that not only is the detention immoral but it's also illegal," Libal said. Read more about Texas Appeals Ruling That Bans License for Detention Centers

Dec 5, 2016
/
The Huffington Post

Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling

Hundreds of women and children were released from two family detention centers over the weekend, after a Texas state judge sided with critics who say the facilities more closely resemble jails than child care centers.

The mass releases were a victory for immigrant rights advocates, who argue that it’s unnecessary and inhumane to lock up undocumented mothers and kids seeking asylum in the U.S.

The state lawsuit focused narrowly on emergency rules designed to allow the detention facilities to meet Texas’ child care licensing standards. But the state case arises out of ongoing federal litigation, which has put Immigration and Customs Enforcement on notice that these facilities are not acceptable places to house kids.

“This may not be the end of our legal battles,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which brought the state lawsuit. “But for now, if these facilities want to apply to operate as child care facilities, they have to do it like any other child care facility ― rather than the state designing a rule that fits prisons.”

...

The Karnes and Dilley detention centers would need to make significant changes to qualify as child care facilities under previously established Texas law. One problem is that the centers hold multiple families together in a single unit, meaning children have been housed with unrelated adults ― a generally prohibited practice for child care facilities because of the risk of abuse.

Another key issue is that children’s presence at licensed child care facilities is essentially optional and they can leave. By contrast, kids can’t leave the detention centers at Karnes or Dilley unless ICE or an immigration judge releases them.

Despite the ongoing litigation, ICE extended CoreCivic’s contract to run the Dilley detention center in October.

 
Read more about Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling
Dec 5, 2016
/
The San Antonio Current

Texas Blocked From Licensing Immigration Lockups as Child Care Centers

Texas can't lower its standards in order to license a couple of South Texas immigration lockups run by private prison corporations. 

That's the result of a final judgement issued by a Travis County judge late Friday in a lawsuit triggered by the state's unusual decision to license immigrant detention centers as child care facilities. In her final ruling, Judge Karin Crump said that allowing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to give family detention centers the state stamp of approval "runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code." 

...

Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prisons, filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block state licensing of the centers. Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who represented Grassroots, said that state licensing of detention centers was never about ensuring the welfare of children. “The state’s executives admitted in documents and testimony that DFPS wanted to license these facilities to help the federal government, and not the children," Wesevich, said. "Motive matters and we believe it was the key to the case." 

“The conditions at Karnes and Dilley are equivalent to prisons, not childcare facilities,” said Grassroots director Bob Libal. “We are glad the court heard our concerns about the damage that family detention does to mothers and their children and how lowering standards to issue licenses to these facilities only exacerbates that harm."

Libal also asked that the Obama Administration "end the practice of detaining immigrant families once and for all." Read more about Texas Blocked From Licensing Immigration Lockups as Child Care Centers

Dec 4, 2016
/
My San Antonio

State cannot issue child care licenses for family detention centers, judgment finds

A judge issued a final judgment Friday to prevent the state from issuing a child care license for family detention centers, such as the 2,400-bed immigration detention center in Dilley or a 1,000-bed center in Karnes County, according to the Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

The group sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services along with the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group earlier this year after DFPS issued a child care license for the Karnes County Residential Center. In June, State District Judge Karin Crump issued a temporary injunction against the department.

“During hearings in May and June, Judge Crump heard testimony from mothers detained at the facilities who testified to the prison-like conditions at the facility, and child welfare and faith leaders who argued that children locked up with their mothers in immigrant family detention camps are not safe, physically or mentally,” a press release from Grassroots Leadership read.

... Read more about State cannot issue child care licenses for family detention centers, judgment finds

BREAKING: Texas court blocks licensing of family detention camps as childcare facilities

AUSTIN, Texas — In a major victory for detained asylum seeking mothers and their children, an Austin judge Friday issued a final judgment effectively preventing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing child care licenses to the nation’s two largest family detention centers — the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. Read more about BREAKING: Texas court blocks licensing of family detention camps as childcare facilities

Oct 26, 2016
/
Texas Observor

Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement

A Guatemalan mom and son who have been living in Sanctuary in Austin have finally received a form of deportation relief for the next year. Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan had been living in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for the past 8 months under threat of deportation back to Guatemala. Hilda and her son came to the U.S. in August of 2014 seeking asylum, and spent the next 11 months in the for-profit Karnes Family Residential Facility. Hilda and Ivan were then released from Karnes due to a separate Special Immigrant Juvenile status that Ivan applied for, and because a federal judge had recently ruled against prolonged family detention. 

The two were living at an Austin-area shelter in January when the Obama administration announced a new set of removal priorities that targeted adults who entered the United States with children after May 2014. Despite Ivan’s ongoing application, an order of deportation remained active for both of them.

That’s when Ramirez connected with organizers at Austin’s Grassroots Leadership and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where she and Ivan took sanctuary, invoking a long-standing practice in which places of worship house and advocate for immigrants, taking advantage of ICE’s policy of avoiding “sensitive locations.”

Eight months later, ICE informed the family’s lawyer that they would receive relief from deportation in the form of deferred action, which protects them for one year before they must renew the status.

“This is an important step,” said Grassroots’ immigration organizer Alejandro Caceres, “but we need to see more faith communities like St. Andrew’s standing up and saying to ICE: ‘You’ll have to get through us first.’”

...

Advocates, explained Caceres, had been demanding a stay of removal, a form of relief designed for immigrants who have exhausted all of their legal options and which ICE has granted to other immigrants in sanctuary. Instead, ICE granted deferred action, which is normally given to those who never went through deportation proceedings. A key difference is that Ramirez and her son will not have to attend regular ICE check-ins.

“I can only think it was the community pressure,” Caceres told the Observer, “and they just wanted to make us leave them alone.” It remains uncertain whether ICE will grant the same relief in similar cases going forward. Caceres added that the Austin movement will continue to push for permanent cancellation of removal in the case.

Read more about Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement

Hilda and Ivan are free at last!

Hilda Ramirez is finally able to leave St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church after she and her son Ivan spent the past 8 months in sanctuary there. Hilda and Ivan were granted deferred action of one year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which means they are not at risk of deportation for the next year. Read more about Hilda and Ivan are free at last!

Oct 25, 2016
/
KVUE

Austin woman and son granted deferred action

For the first time in two years, an Austin immigrant says she no longer has a fear of deportation.

Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan had been living in sanctuary at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church for the past 8 months after fleeing violence in her home country of Guatemala. During that time they had been fighting for asylum here in the United States.  

Last Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  granted Hilda and Ivan a deferred action, allowing them to leave sanctuary as the federal government has delayed her deportation decision for one more year. 

“She is able to apply for a work permit, in that year,” said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer with Grassroots Leadership, an organization that fights to stop for-profit incarceration. “Able to be in the United States, have an ID, have a social security and able to work and immigration has promised not to deport her."

Hilda is now able to enjoy time in public with her son, such as going to the park and seeing him play soccer. Her asylum status is still pending.  Read more about Austin woman and son granted deferred action

Oct 20, 2016
/
Rewire

ACLU, Advocates Want Next President to Upend Anti-Immigration Policies

Rewire spoke to the executive directors of two immigrant rights organizations about the issues they believe the next president should focus on. 

...

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released 'the Trump Memos', a constitutional analysis of Donald Trump's policy proposals and found that his immigration policies 'would most likely violate the Constitution, federal statuatory law, and/or international law'. The ACLU then released 'the Clinton Memos', a series of policies and reforms that Clinton should make if she is elected president. The ACLU's top recommendation for Clinton was that she end family detention, the practice of detaining asylum-seeking mothers and children in prisonlike conditions, with the goal of deporting them as quickly as possible. 

...

Texas is home to two of the nation’s three remaining family detention centers, and the organization Grassroots Leadership is currently embroiled in a legal battle over state efforts to license these detention centers as child-care facilities under lowered standards. Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal told Rewire that detention is harmful to everyone, but there is plenty of evidence that it has a “tremendous negative impact” on the mental health and overall well-being of children.

“The next president and advocates have a lot of work to do to roll back this massive detention regime that has been built up over the last 20 years,” Libal said. “I think most people recognize that a good very first place to start is to stop the totally egregious detention of children and their moms.”

...

Before that debate, Libal told Rewire that advocacy organizations like Grassroots Leadership wanted to hear both candidates go on record about their views on family detention, in particular, because it has been such a major part of Clinton’s immigration platform.

“I think it could have a big impact,” Libal said. “There are a lot of people who still don’t know about family detention and that the average age of children in these prisonlike facilities is 6 years old. We’re talking about really young children. Family detention, I think, has become representative of our entire broken [immigration] system. If we want to know what candidates are going to do about immigration enforcement broadly, a good place to start would be what they plan to do about the mass detention of kids and their moms who are seeking asylum in the United States.”

...

If the next president doesn’t end family detention, “and if we continue on this path, it will be a mark on our country’s history,” said Libal.

 

  Read more about ACLU, Advocates Want Next President to Upend Anti-Immigration Policies

Pages