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.
Texans United for Families
Privatization of any type of jail or prison should be concerning: incarcerations shouldn’t be driven by profits.
Immigration activists have taken a firm stance on this. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a North Carolina-based organization that wants to extricate private businesses from prison industry, said the new incursions into family detention by the Obama administration are both “incredibly shameful and entirely predictable.” After the failure of T. Don Hutto, he believes the government should end the effort to lock up families based on immigration status. “It’s almost mind-boggling that ICE would embark on this kind of detention regime,” he said. [node:read-more:link]
Elaine Cohen, who works with Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights to end for-profit incarceration, said she's visited the center. She complained about the practice of housing children in what she said were jail-like conditions while a woman next to her held a bright-orange poster that said “Children need freedom and sunshine to grow.”
“You can paint laughing broccolis and smiling bananas on the walls all you want, but this is still a prison for children,” Cohen said, adding that this is the first of several protests. She noted that a larger detention center is slated to be built in Dilley, between San Antonio and Laredo, and said the group will be vigilant of others. [node:read-more:link]
From Austin and San Antonio, close to one-hundred activists made the drive to Karnes County this weekend in protest of the more than 500 immigrants incarcerated inside the Karnes County Residential Center.
"When we as a country needed to open our arms and open our doors to people fleeing violence,” Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration projects coordinator, said. “Instead, we locked them up. We're putting them in this prison now."
Part of the group’s message at the weekend rally is directed at the prison's operator, private company Geo Group Incorporated.
"We know that this is a company back here that is making $298 per day, per child," Parker said.
Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group that has been critical of ICE's detention policies and outsourcing to the private prison industry, said the reliance on signing deals with local entities rather than with the companies themselves lacks transparency.
“I think the reason they don't put out (requests for proposals), they do these (intergovernmental service agreements) is to avoid scrutiny, to rush through these decisions without the public or the media to scrutinize what they're doing,” Libal said. [node:read-more:link]
Organizers referred to the practice as inhumane and believe the Karnes County Residential Center should be closed immediately.
Members of the group also alleged mistreatment of the people being held at the center.
"One of the biggest problems with this facility is that it's run by a private company, and the problem with that is that they aren't answerable to us, the people. They answer to their shareholders," said Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership. "So they have not given us any kind of response or anything, which is exactly why it needs to stop."
A report released yesterday documents what it calls "systemic" problems in the two private prison companies the federal government hires to house undocumented Central American mothers and their children.
The report alleges detainees are being sexually harassed by guards in the recently-opened Karnes County Residential Center, which is run by the GEO Group, and expresses concern about a forthcoming center opening in Dilley next month, which will be run by CCA.
Austin-based research and advocacy group Grassroots Leadership authored the report, and Cristina Parker, a project coordinator with the group, says private prison contractors like GEO and CCA are often responsible for deaths of those within under care. Since the 1980s, she says, they have settled lawsuits claiming that people die under these companies’ care, while other lawsuits have dealt with sexual and physical abuse. What surprises Parker is that these companies continue getting new contracts.
“Private prison companies are not accountable to anyone,” Parker says. “They are accountable to their shareholders – not to us the people – not even to Congress, not even to the Department of Homeland Security.”
Immigrant justice groups and human rights groups are demanding the Obama administration close a recently converted immigrant detention center in Karnes, Texas. The center incarcerates 530 children and families and is owned and operated by the private prison corporation GEO Group.
The call to close the Karnes detention center comes as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials recently confirmed plans to build a new immigrant-family detention center in Dilley, Texas, that is expected to hold 2,400 refugees arriving from Central America.
"While families are suffering this mass-family detention policy, it has become very good for business for private prison corporations like the GEO Group," said Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which works to end for-profit incarceration.
Libal said the company's expected annual revenue for the Karnes detention center jumped from around $15 million to $26 million after the company converted the center to detain children and families. [node:read-more:link]
Locking up children and their parents has an ugly history in Texas. The Obama administration pulled families out of the CCA-run T. Don Hutto detention center in 2009 after mounting evidence of civil-rights abuses. Families and children, many of whom are fleeing violence and human rights abuses, simply shouldn’t be held in jail-like conditions, advocates have said. They suggest alternatives, including truly residential facilities run by charities or faith-based groups.
Immigrant rights groups reacted with outrage today at the ICE announcement.
“Given the shameful history of family detention at Hutto, it’s horrifying that ICE would turn back to Corrections Corporation of America to operate what would be by far the nation’s largest family detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership. “While little kids and their families will suffer in remote private prisons, far away from legal or social services, these multi-billion dollar private prison companies stand to make enormous profits.” [node:read-more:link]
Human rights groups last week denounced the detention of immigrant families at two recently opened facilities in Texas and New Mexico, saying incarceration exacerbates the trauma of mothers and children seeking asylum and blocks refugees from access to lawyers. ...
Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, said the facilities as they stand now seem to be operating like “deportation mills.”
“Family detention is back and at a scale that we could not have even imagined during the Bush administration,” he told the Statesman. “It is a giant step backward.” [node:read-more:link]