New report: ICE’s contract with CoreCivic to detain immigrants at Hutto flouts federal law

March 25, 2021

Researchers recommend that the federal government permanently shut down T. Don Hutto in a report that explores why T. Don Hutto remains open—despite a long and troubled history

Austin, Texas – Today, Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Law Immigration Clinic released a report detailing why the federal government must close T. Don Hutto. 

Despite repeated reports of abuse, substandard conditions, and community opposition, ICE continues to contract with CoreCivic to keep Hutto open. CoreCivic and its many subcontractors record substantial profits while the women detained at the facility suffer the results of the companies’ cost-cutting measures—and ultimately it is the public that pays for this secretive arrangement. Researchers note that the only appropriate response the federal government must take is to close down Hutto for good and develop humane community-based alternatives to immigration detention. 

Sulma Franco, Community Organizer at Grassroots Leadership: “For years, detained people have been ringing the alarm on the harm these places cause to any person that spends even one day behind those walls. We hope this report paints—through our experiences, legal background, and history—the cruel picture of the abusive and violent nature that is Hutto Immigration Jail, and it drives members of Congress, elected officials, and any person with powers to take immediate action and close it down.”

Some of the key findings from the report include: 

  • ICE contracted directly with CoreCivic for detention at Hutto in an arrangement that flouts federal law

  • CoreCivic has strong incentives to maintain or expand immigration detention at Hutto. These incentives encourage high levels of detention despite the expense to taxpayers and the lack of any sound policy reason

  • CoreCivic and its contractors at the Hutto facility maximize profits in large part by delivering poor service, subjecting detained women to unacceptable conditions—ranging from deprivation of adequate food to sexual abuse to forced labor.

  • Federal government auditors who purportedly monitor compliance with detention standards and contractual obligations at Hutto have a financial interest in continued detention at the facility. 

Researchers noted that because of prior litigation and advocacy, conditions at Hutto are, on paper, held to a higher standard than at many other immigration detention facilities. Nonetheless, Hutto remains a prime example of the many serious problems with federal civil immigration detention, including the web of profit incentives woven into the fabric of the system.

Denise Gilman, Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law: “ICE's decision to contract with CoreCivic at Hutto flouts federal law.  The law envisions detention by the government, not by private prison companies.  Even worse, detention at Hutto violates constitutional rules that require strong government justification for a deprivation of liberty.  The women at Hutto do not need to be detained at all since they have relatives willing to receive them while they pursue asylum under the law.”

T. Don Hutto Detention Center holds women seeking asylum during their immigration proceedings, even though most women need not be detained at all, because they have family or community organizations willing to host and support them as they participate in hearings and wait for a decision on their asylum claims. Up to 512 women are detained at the facility at any given time, isolated from legal counsel, family, and other support. The Hutto facility, located in Williamson County, Texas, is managed and owned by private prison company CoreCivic (known as the Corrections Corporation of America until 2016). Hutto is operated pursuant to a direct contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and CoreCivic that lasts for ten years—beyond this presidency and the next.

Elsa (not her real name), a 32-year-old woman previously detained at T. Don Hutto: It is so unfair that they treat us immigrants without respect or mercy. Being at Hutto was traumatic because the guards did what they wanted with us. They decided when I would eat, when I could bathe, when I would go to sleep, and when I could go outdoors to take a walk [...] It is so unfair that we have no rights. We could not stand up to the guards, because they threatened us with punishment. [...] It is hell to be incarcerated and deprived of justice.”

The full report can be found here

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.

 
Contact: 

Maria Reza, mreza@grassrootsleadership.org