Dept. of Justice urged to investigate ADA violations in Karnes family detention center

September 19, 2016

Detained children with mobility impairments cannot go to the second-story school at the immigrant family prison

(AUSTIN, Texas) — An Austin-based immigration attorney has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate why the school inside an immigrant family prison is inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments.

In a September 17 letter to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, attorney Virginia Raymond described how one of her child clients, who had broken her leg in detention and uses crutches, is not able to attend the charter school on the second story of the for-profit Karnes family detention center. There is no elevator at the detention center.

The letter explains that the charter school for children locked up in the facility has been operated by the John H. Wood, Jr. Public Charter School District, but it is unclear if the company still operates it.

"Ignorance of or indifference to three fundamental, well-known and widely-publicized civil rights acts by DHS, GEO and a charter school district is proof that none of these agencies or their individual employees have ANY business confining ANY human being,” wrote Raymond in the letter, who has been representing mothers and children at the detention center since 2014.

Raymond says by being inaccessible to those with mobility impairments, the facility is in violation of at least three federal laws: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Individuals with Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services licensed the Karnes detention center as a "childcare" facility in April. Attorneys for DFPS argued in court that licensing was needed so the facility could be subject to inspection. But, as Raymond's letter explains, a DFPS investigator with a mobility impairment would be unable to access the school and second story of the immigrant family lockup. A similar license for another South Texas family detention camp in Dilley was blocked by a judge and is pending a trial later this year.

"We didn't need anymore proof that family detention is a complete disgrace," said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. "But ICE and the prison companies keep lowering the bar."

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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.



Bob Libal,, 512-499-8111