Alternatives to Immigrant Detention are Less Costly and More Humane Texas Groups Calls for Detention System to be Reformed to Prioritize Dignity and Release, Not Detention For-Profit

September 3, 2010

Austin, TX - Today, Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families reacted to a national report released last week by calling for a move towards community-based alternatives to detention for immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Texas.

The report, issued by the Detention Watch Network and Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, showed that the Obama administration could reduce the unprecedented rate of immigration detention by adopting cost-effective, community-based alternatives that have already been implemented internationally and domestically. According to the report, pilot programs in the United States and abroad have demonstrated that community-based alternatives to detention are cheaper, more effective, and more humane than the current U.S. immigration detention system. The report is online at www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.

Last month a former supervisor at Corrections Corporation of America's was indicted for charges related to the sexual assault of women detained at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. The sexual abuse scandal is the latest in a series of such incidents at Texas detention centers. In 2007, a CCA employee was fired for inappropriate sexual contact with a female who was being detained at the facility with her family. Earlier this year, a former Port Isabel Detention Center officer was sentenced to prison for sexual abuse of females in detention over a period of time in 2008. In 2008, an expose by the WOAI news station in San Antonio reported sexual abuse of females being detained at the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. ICE has held up Hutto as a model detention center despite its history of human rights violations.

"The sexual assaults of women at Hutto and other detention centers throughout the U.S. show how ICE fails to live up to even its own weak standards. Implementing the policy changes laid out in this report would be a vast improvement for the lives of immigrants held in detention. Even so, the use of mass detention as a social policy raises serious concerns about the connections between human rights violations and citizenship status.” said Sam Vong of Texans United for Families.

Specifically, the national report recommends “alternatives to detention” that rely on collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and local non-governmental organizations. The programs provide for the release of individuals from detention and ensure compliance with immigration procedures through a mixture of traditional caseworker monitoring and referral to community services.

Texas is home to at least 10,000 immigration detention beds, more than any other state. Most detention centers are contracted with for-profit private prison companies such as the Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation, and the GEO Group.

"Current immigration detention policies benefit for-profit private prison corporations at the detriment of immigrants and taxpayers alike," said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. "Now more than ever, ICE should move away from its vast, unaccountable, and expensive system of private detention centers and implement measures that are true community-based alternatives to detention."