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

Oct 20, 2016

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.



Welcome our new Hutto Visitation Intern, Victoria Jara!

Victoria comes to Grassroots Leadership with a passion for social, economic, and racial justice. Originally from Miami with family from Peru, she studied Biological Psychology at New College of Florida, where she was the President of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and organized around impacts of the war on drugs. [node:read-more:link]

Grassroots Leadership responds to private prison corporations' statements to investors

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, Grassroots Leadership responded to investor conference calls held last week by private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.   In the calls, company executives reported on earnings from 2016’s second quarter and spoke of the financial outlook moving forward.

“These statements show that policy reforms that are good for immigrants, good for those tied up in the criminal justice system, and good for taxpayers are bad for private prison corporations,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.   “Policy-makers should prioritize reforms that reduce the number of people behind bars and , not policies that line the pockets of private prison corporation executives.” [node:read-more:link]

Jul 4, 2016
Casa Grande Dispatch

Texas prison is big business for Eloy

“It still feels like it’s a lot of money, even for that,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based company that strongly opposes for-profit private prisons such as the one in Dilley.

Caceres’ organization has held protests outside the facility and has pending litigation against South Texas Family Residential Facility.

After a California judge ruled that families detained in the facilities should be released because they did not have the proper child care licenses, ICE stepped in and asked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issue a child care license to another family facility in Texas.

Before a license could be issued for the Dilley facility, Grassroots Leadership sued.

“Our contention is that the agency does not have the authority to license prisons as children care facilities, and these family detention camps are prisons,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the organization. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 29, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans

The US immigration detention has ballooned since the turn of the millennium, doubling in size between 2000 and 2010 amidst a national crackdown on immigration. The bloated system, run largely by private, for-profit prison companies,currently incarcerates men, women, and even children, and the detention centers have been plagued by allegations of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual assault.

In a significant departure from the Obama administration's policies, Clinton has pledged to close these private-run detention centers. She has also promised to close the family detention centers opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to an influx of children and mothers seeking asylum from violence-plagued countries in Central America.

Immigration advocates aren't totally satisfied, pointing out that Clinton has not actually promised to decrease overall detention of undocumented immigrants. "We don't think immigrant detention should exist," said Christina Parker, who directs immigration programs for Grassroots Leadership. "There's a strong argument that the only reason immigrant detention so large is to profit two or three companies. So if you believe that then there would be no reason for them to exist after private contracts ended."

Parker added that the Democratic candidate should specify "how exactly and when exactly" the facilities would shut down. So far, Clinton has not. [node:read-more:link]

Another South Texas community shoots down the family detention sales pitch

Two Texas counties have said no to family detention this month.

A trend is emerging of Texas counties standing up against the Obama administration’s policy of locking up Central American families

(AUSTIN, Texas) — For the second time this month, officials in a South Texas county have delivered a unanimous vote against a new immigrant family detention center in their community.  

Dimmit County Commissioners today rejected a proposal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Stratton Oilfield Systems to turn the company’s now-vacant “man camp” in Carrizo Springs into a new family detention center. The facility would have detained  asylum-seeking Central American mothers and children. They join officials in Jim Wells County, who rejected a similar proposal early this month from UK-based private prison company Serco, who wanted to turn a vacant nursing home into a lock-up for moms and kids in San Diego, Texas. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2016

Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

“At first the Obama administration said they were locking up families to deter people from crossing,” Cristina Parker, organizer with the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet. “Then when a judge said that was unconstitutional they changed their rationale and said it’s for national security, which is a thin argument. Seeing on paper that they have a quota that directly benefits private prisons underlines that family detention is really driving revenue and profits.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 25, 2016
The Guardian

Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center

Federal immigration officials are moving forward with plans for a new 500-bed family detention center to house migrant women and children, even as many advocates and politicians have called for the closure of such facilities altogether.

Officials in Dimmit County, 45 miles from the Texas border with Mexico, say they’ll consider a bid on Monday from a firm who says their facility in a 27-acre former work camp for oil workers would provide dramatically better conditions than two other family detention centers in the state.

Those facilities have faced complaints of poor food, inadequate medical care and allegations of sexual abuse from detainees, activists and the US Civil Rights Commission.


But Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership, said she and other advocates object inherently to the concept of a detention center for families fleeing violence, regardless of the purported conditions.

“If you are not free to leave, then it doesn’t matter how nice it is,” Parker said. “It’s a prison.” [node:read-more:link]