Across the US, demands to end family detention and a focus on licenses

February 22, 2016

Protests in both Texas and Pennsylvania expose ICE operating three family detention centers without licenses — in direct violation of court’s order

(AUSTIN, Texas) — This morning, a group of faith leaders and community members protested  at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Capitol office the state’s decision to open the door for licensing immigrant family detention lockups as childcare facilities. In response, protesters set up their own unlicensed child care center outside of his public reception room.

“If the state of Texas can call a private prison a day care and say that prison guards are child care providers, then why couldn’t Gov. Abbott’s office be a daycare?” said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “We are here to show how absurd it is to change the rules to call family prisons child care centers.”

The protest in Texas comes about one week since the Texas Health and Human Services Commission approved a rule that will allow the child care licensing process to move forward, in an effort to rescue the Obama Administration’s family detention policy from Judge Dolly Gee’s order to end it.

A simultaneous action today in Berks County, Pennsylvania comes after just one day after the Berks County family detention center’s state license expires.  There, members of the Shut Down Berks Coalition will be delivering a message to ICE to cease & desist operations in Berks and release of all the families and children inside.

Currently, every family detention center in the U.S. is operating in violation of federal law based on Judge Gee’s order, renewing outrage and calls for the family detention centers to be closed immediately.

“There is no set of standards that would make a prison an appropriate place for children seeking safety to be held long-term. Children who have already experienced incredible trauma are being re-traumatized daily in a restrictive environment where babies aren’t even allowed to crawl. Federal Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling in August ordered ICE to release children without any unnecessary delay, but instead of complying with our own legal system’s ruling, the Obama Administration chooses to keep kids locked up to send a political message,” said Rachel Gore Freed, Vice President and Chief Program Officer, UUSC. “The State of Texas is shamefully bowing to pressure from the federal government to license prisons as childcare facilities and validate the long-term detention of children and families whose only “crime” was fleeing life-threatening danger."

Several people entered the Gov. Abbott’s office and asked his staff if they would be able to staff the protesters unlicensed daycare for the morning, but none were willing.

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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, acaceres@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111