Texas Civil Rights Groups To Gather for World Refugee Day Rally Coalition Calls for Halt to New Detention Center Construction & End to Secure Communities Program

June 20, 2011

Austin, Texas - To mark World Refugee Day on Monday, June 20th, a coalition of Texas immigrant and civil rights organizations will gather in Austin to call for a halt to controversial immigration programs that have led to an increasing number of detentions and deportations in the past year, wasted valuable tax-dollars, and made communities less safe.

Organizers of the rally are calling for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt construction of a new immigrant detention center for asylum-seekers and other immigrants in Karnes County, Texas, southeast of San Antonio. Organizers are also calling on Travis County, and the State of Texas, to end its involvement in the controversial Secure Communities program.

The rally will demand a halt to the construction of the Karnes County immigrant detention center, a 600-bed prison to be operated by the troubled private prison corporation The GEO Group. “Problems in GEO facilities in Texas - including deaths in custody, inadequate medical care, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions - have been repeatedly highlighted in public news reports,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership.

Protesters will also call for an end to "Secure Communities", a program that turns local jailers into an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Travis County's participation in this program has led to more than 2,700 Travis County residents being turned over to ICE, mostly for low-level offenses, and to nearly 1,900 deportations from Travis County since 2008.

On Friday, in response to mounting criticism, the Obama Administration announced reforms to the "Secure Communities" program. While the reform announcement acknowledges problems in the program’s design and implementation and makes some small reforms, it falls far short of the repeal of the program demanded by immigrant rights advocates. "We call on the Obama administration to repeal programs like Secure Communities that create fear and encourage racial profiling and to put an end to building new detention centers," said Carmen Llanes of Texans United for Families, one of the sponsoring organizations. "At a time when our schools and parks are closing, we should not be spending billions of dollars to detain and deport people in our communities.”

In recent weeks, Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have either pulled out or refused participation in the program while numerous cities across the country have sought a way out of the deportation dragnet that commandeers local law enforcement and entangles them in immigration laws. Despite this, the Texas Senate passed SB 9 this week, which would mandate the use of Secure Communities in the state. 

Sponsors of the rally include allgo, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, American Gateways, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership, PODER, Texas Civil Rights Project, Texas Jail Project, Texans United for Families, San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement, Save Our Youth, Southwest Workers Union, Wilco Justice Alliance, and Workers Defense Project.

Participants in the rally will gather on Monday, June 20th, at 7pm at the corner of 11th and Congress Avenue on the south side of the Capitol before marching to the Travis County Jail.

  • Carmen Llanes, Texans United for Families
  • Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487