Texans United for Families

Texans United for Families, or TUFF, came together during the fight to end family detention at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, just north of Austin. TUFF is a grassroots, all-volunteer-driven project of Grassroots Leadership. We support and coordinate TUFF members in their mission to fight back against immigrant detention and deportation close to home. In response to the influx of Central American families and children seeking refuge at the border, the Obama Administration announced the return of family detention in 2014. TUFF is fighting back to end this inhumane practice. Find out more about the consequences of family detention.

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Building bridges in Dallas

At the end of May I was part of a small delegation that went to Dallas to attend the opening festivities of a newly formed group, the Center for Theological Activism.  At the dinner I met a number of progressive clergy who expressed real interest in learning more about the groups we represented.  Alejandro Caceres and Susana Pimiento were there from the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition and I was there to talk about immigrant detention and the Hutto Visitation Program.  Two of the clergy that seemed to be the most interested in the issue of detention were a Methodist Youth Minister, Jason Redick and the Rev. Jim Mitulski, the senior Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope.

Those of you who participated in the recent action in Waco at the Jack Harwell Center heard Jason Redick’s moving opening prayer.  About the same time as our action in Waco, I received an invitation from Rev. Mitulski’s congregation to be on a panel at the Cathedral of Hope.  They were holding a symposium titled ImagiNATION Immigration and the key speaker was the journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.   I spoke about my experiences visiting at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.  You can read my remarks here.

It was the first time I had been to the Cathedral of Hope, which is known as the largest LGBT congregation in Dallas, and probably in all of Texas.  The congregation was also racially diverse and included many families and children as well.  In fact, I believe the Cathedral of Hope may be the most integrated, inclusive religious congregation I have had the opportunity to visit.

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Jul 30, 2014
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International Business Times

Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

... Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization that has campaigned against family detention and the for-profit prison industry, said the government would likely be eager to keep contracting family detention centers to private companies.

“It’s an easy solution for the government because there are private prison corporations that have excess capacity, particularly today, with declining state prison populations,” he said. “And it’s about influence -- private prison corporations are enormously powerful, particularly in immigration.” Libal noted that Julie Myers Wood, former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a member of GEO Group’s board of directors, and that David Venturella, former head of the "Secure Communities" enforcement program, is now a GEO Group senior vice president ....  Read more about Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

Grassroots Leadership decries return of for-profit immigrant family detention in Texas

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that the Karnes County Civil Detention Center southeast of San Antonio will be used to detain families and children fleeing violence in Central America.

The 600-bed Karnes County Detention Center is operated by for-profit private prison company GEO Group which has a long history of prisoner abuse, lawsuits alleging human rights violations, and deaths in custody. Read more about Grassroots Leadership decries return of for-profit immigrant family detention in Texas

Humpday Hall of Shame - Henry Cuellar wants kids deported ASAP, hauls in private prison cash

Today’s Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to a repeat dis-honoree: Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat from Laredo, Texas.  Yesterday, Cuellar teamed with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) to introduce the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act.  The HUMANE Act, despite its name, guts legal protection for unaccompanied migrant children and speeds their deportation. 

Cuellar’s public push to detain and deport migrant children drew a rebuke (The Hill, July 11, 2014) last week from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  CHC’s chairman Ruben Hinojosa, a fellow Texan told reporters at a press conference that:  "Henry Cuellar does not represent the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He's a Blue Dog; he comes to the meetings once in a long time."  

The CHC has called for maintaining legal protections for children from Central America and allowing kids to be able to fight their cases in courts rather than through an expedited deportation policy.    Experts have noted that Honduras — the country where the most unaccompanied children are migrating — has the highest murder rate in the world and that rapid deportation of children and families would result in some of those deportees being killed.   

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Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis

A disappointing decision by the Obama administration was announced Friday morning in response to a recent influx of Central American migrants crossing through the Southwest border, many of them children. According to officials, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will seek to detain more of these individuals and accelerate their cases in immigration courts to speed up their deportations. Read more about Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis

Courtney Greene: The top 3 reasons to join TUFF in the fight against the immigrant detention quota

Guest blogger Courtney Greene is a regular volunteer with Texans United for Families (TUFF) and a regularly visits women in detention through the Hutto Visitation Program. 

Efforts continue around the country to end the immigrant detention quota. On Friday, May 9, protestors marched and rallied in Washington, D.C. to #EndTheQuota. Five were arrested including Grassroots Leadership Executive Director, Bob Libal.

Earlier in the week, pro-immigrant groups and individuals from across the U.S. called and emailed their congressional representatives to demand the immigrant detention quota be stopped. 

The quota requires the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fill 34,000 beds in immigrant detention centers each day. The quota is unjust, inhumane and primarily benefits the for-profit companies that run the detention centers.  In TUFF’s view, here are the top 3 reasons to advocate for the immediate end of the immigrant detention quota:  

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Annanda Barclay: What Is This TUFF Jazz All About anyway?

Guest blogger Annanda Barclay is a third-year student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is a regular volunteer with Texans United for Families (TUFF) and is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA). 
 
Very rarely do you see organizations doing interpersonal and systemic work. Between the stream of visitors participating in the Hutto Visitation Program, where volunteers sit and hear the stories and form friendships with women who are seeking asylum in the United States, to the vigils, caravans, town hall meetings and press conferences that bring attention to the systemic injustice of for-profit private detention centers and deportations,TUFF is one of those unique, relevant and desperately needed organizations.
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The Fourth Annual Dancing Away Detention Was a Hit!

On Thursday, April 17 supporters of TUFF and the Hutto Visitation Program came together at El Sol y La Luna for our 4th annual Dancing Away Detention benefit show. We got to hear the music of Kiko Villamizar as we munched on delicious appetizers, and Queer Qumbia kept folks dancing until the end of the evening. 

The event is organized to raise funds to sustain the work of the Hutto Visitation Program, and this year, we were also able to share a large portion of the money with a family whose resources have been severely strained by the detention of their father, Jose Jiménez Cortez. We received donations for our silent auction from local businesses and artists who gave us a variety of gift certificates, tickets and works of art.

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