New Video of Mother and Son and their Experience in the Karnes Detention Center

December 11, 2015

A group of advocates, families and community members packed a public hearing to urge the State of Texas not to license family detention centers

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership today released video testimony from a mother and son who were held in the Karnes family detention center, one day after the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services heard overwhelming testimony from more than 40 people opposed to granting child care licenses to the family detention centers in South Texas.

The video testimony can be viewed at:

(Press the Closed Caption (CC) button to watch English translations of both Hilda’s and Ivan’s statements)

Hilda’s Statement:

Ivan’s Statement:

Facebook album:

Dr. Satsuki Ina's testimony:

Magdalena, a mother who was with her 17 year old daughter in the Karnes detention center says, “These places are not child care facilities, they are jails. They are places that are meant to make you lose hope. They are places where your kids suffer. And, this process is disgusting and immoral. If the state of Texas really cared about children they would be looking to see how they could close down these facilities.”

Wednesday, a diverse group of immigrant rights and children’s advocates, previously detained families, faith leaders, and community members came together to speak out against the licensing of two family detention centers in Texas as “child care facilities” by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Grassroots Leadership delivered a petition with more than 800 signatures during the hearing, in which all 40 people who testified spoke in opposition to licensing.

During the hearing, Laura Guerra-Cardus, MD, Associate Director and Policy Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas delivered strong testimony, saying, “Under no circumstances should we lock up children inside of prison-like detention facilities and call those facilities childcare centers. Federal immigrant detention centers at Karnes and Dilley were never established or designed to provide childcare, and instead create living conditions fundamentally at odds with the health, safety and development of children, especially those at risk. We urge DFPS to have no role in legitimizing unsafe detention centers as appropriate for children.”

Before the state agency heard official comments on the licensing of these detention centers, the group gathered outside holding signs to share personal testimony of the terrible conditions inside these detention centers, as well as the abuses that children and families suffer in detention.

Hilda, who was in detention in Karnes County this year said, “It’s a sad place for children, and it’s not fair that that detention center is open. Kids should not be locked up, and hopefully it can be closed.” Her son Ivan, who could not be present at the event because of school, sent a video stating, “Detention is ugly. When someone important came by they would not let us ask them for help, and if we did, they would lock us up in a cold room.” Hilda’s and Ivan’s videos are linked above.

Virginia Raymond, an attorney who has represented families in both Karnes and Dilley, added her voice to the opposition, “Judge Specia, we implore you to use your heart, brain, and courage.  Resist this cynical attempt to turn a Texas agency with a noble mission, staffed by so many hard-working, caring, sincere people, into a farcical rubber stamp for profiteers.”

Laurie Cook Heffron, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Texas School of Social Work added her voice and expertise, saying, “Conditions of detention often mirror or reflect women’s experience with violence. That is, the strategies and tactics of control and abuse used by abusers, traffickers, and others who inflicted violence upon women and children, are often repeated through the conditions, rules, and structures of immigrant family detention centers.”

DFPS is accepting comments on this issue through December 14. Any individuals interested in speaking out against licensing detention facilities as child care centers are encouraged to add their names to the petition:

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.



Contact: Alejandro Caceres,, 512-499-8111