bob libal

Dec 5, 2016
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The Huffington Post

Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling

Hundreds of women and children were released from two family detention centers over the weekend, after a Texas state judge sided with critics who say the facilities more closely resemble jails than child care centers.

The mass releases were a victory for immigrant rights advocates, who argue that it’s unnecessary and inhumane to lock up undocumented mothers and kids seeking asylum in the U.S.

The state lawsuit focused narrowly on emergency rules designed to allow the detention facilities to meet Texas’ child care licensing standards. But the state case arises out of ongoing federal litigation, which has put Immigration and Customs Enforcement on notice that these facilities are not acceptable places to house kids.

“This may not be the end of our legal battles,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which brought the state lawsuit. “But for now, if these facilities want to apply to operate as child care facilities, they have to do it like any other child care facility ― rather than the state designing a rule that fits prisons.”

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The Karnes and Dilley detention centers would need to make significant changes to qualify as child care facilities under previously established Texas law. One problem is that the centers hold multiple families together in a single unit, meaning children have been housed with unrelated adults ― a generally prohibited practice for child care facilities because of the risk of abuse.

Another key issue is that children’s presence at licensed child care facilities is essentially optional and they can leave. By contrast, kids can’t leave the detention centers at Karnes or Dilley unless ICE or an immigration judge releases them.

Despite the ongoing litigation, ICE extended CoreCivic’s contract to run the Dilley detention center in October.

 
Read more about Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling
Dec 2, 2016
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Rewire

Department of Homeland Security Will Continue Contracting With Private Prison Companies

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) subcommittee has decided that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should continue contracting with private prison companies, which have come under fire for their incidents of preventable deaths and allegations that detainees are abused and mistreated.

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 DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson tasked the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) with creating a subcommittee to review ICE’s use of private prison companies like the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, whichrecently rebranded as CoreCivic. Opponents of private prison companies have pointed to allegations of human rights abuses, including incidents of sexual abuse, as a primary reason for the closure of facilities operated by the GEO Group and CoreCivic.

HSAC released the report on December 1 after conducting interviews with detention experts, executives from the major private detention companies, and representatives from national and local immigration advocacy groups, according to the report. Members of the subcommittee also visited two ICE detention facilities, one owned and operated by ICE and the other owned and operated by a private for-profit prison company.

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A fear among advocates—including Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based immigrant rights’ organization Grassroots Leadership—is that ICE will not be held accountable for the growing number of deaths at for-profit prisons. In Raquel Calderon de Hildago’s case, she was being held at CoreCivic-run Eloy Detention Center, which is considered by migrants as one of the worst places to be detained, when she had a series of seizures. She was transferred by paramedics to a nearby hospital, where she died on November 27 at the age of 36. As the Arizona Republic reported, “At the time of her death, she was awaiting deportation to Guatemala, ICE officials said. ICE said database checks indicate she had no criminal history in the U.S.”

Libal told Rewire in a phone interview that he was “heartened” by HSAC rejecting the report’s core recommendation at the hearing this week.

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Libal said that while it’s “somewhat heartening” that the committee dissented, it’s important to get to the heart of the “real issue”: The reason ICE can’t extract itself from contracts with companies like CoreCivic and GEO is because there are too many people in detention—and more expected in the coming months. Any plans for mass deportation, as the president-elect has proposed, require an immediate increase in detention, as migrants awaiting their deportations are placed into detention centers for weeks and sometimes even years. This is an issue that rests squarely on the shoulders of both ICE and the Obama administration, Libal said.

“My hope, and I think a hope of a lot of advocates, was that the report would recommend that ICE reduce the number of people detained, but the report made no such recommendation,” the executive director said.

Moving forward, there are a lot of unknowns about the detention system and how it will continue to take shape. This week, the U.S. government argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that certain migrants in detention shouldn’t qualify for bond hearings after being detained for at least six months. The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy organizations are pushing back against these policies, arguing that all migrants in detention deserve legal protections and due process. Libal said it is this kind of pushback that will be needed more than ever as we enter a new administration intent on further criminalizing and targeting migrants for prolonged detention and deportation.

“We are preparing for what could be one of the darkest times in our nation’s history,” Libal said. “We are handing over the keys to a human rights violation machine to Donald Trump’s immigration force—and that is the fault of this administration. The level of detention dictated why [the subcommittee] felt so beholden to private prison interests. If we had a quarter of people in immigration detention that we do, this would be a much easier problem to solve. And the fact that ICE continues to promote reliance on detention over release from detention or community-supported alternatives is the other reason we have this huge problem.” Read more about Department of Homeland Security Will Continue Contracting With Private Prison Companies

Nov 29, 2016
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The Intercept

NEW SANCTUARY CITIES IN TEXAS VOW TO RESIST DONALD TRUMP’S DEPORTATIONS

A decidely despondent contingent of city and county elected officials gathered at city hall in Austin, Texas, on November 17 for a press conference designed to address residents’ “safety concerns” following the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.

In particular, the officials — including the city’s mayor, several city council members, and the newly elected district attorney and sheriff — sought to quell the concerns of the city’s sizable immigrant population, given the nasty, xenophobic rhetoric espoused by Trump and his surrogates.

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Hernandez’s campaign promise put Austin on a trajectory to become the state’s first official so-called sanctuary city, a move praised by residents, activists, and city officials alike — that has also put the city, along withhundreds of other jurisdictions like it across the country, on a collision course with the Trump administration. Trump has vowed to undertake mass deportation of immigrants and to withhold millions in federal funds from jurisdictions that would try to stand in his way. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities,” he said, “will not receive taxpayer dollars.”

Although there is no legal definition of what a sanctuary city is, the term is colloquially bestowed on cities or counties that have policies limiting or refusing local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities.

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Not only are the programs abusive, but in the case of S-Comm, unconstitutional — according to a string of recent court cases in which judges have found that the unlawful detention of a person absent probable cause is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

That fact, in turn, may make it difficult for a Trump administration to attack so-called sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold federal funding. “You can’t coerce [someone] through federal funding to do something that is unconstitutional,” said Lena Graber, special projects attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

That defect may also impact states that align themselves with Trump’s thinking and pass — or attempt to pass — laws that would punish cities or counties that uphold their community values by adopting sanctuary city policies. Texas lawmakers, for example, have tried multiple times to pass just such a law. This year, the governor and lieutenant governor have madeits passage a priority, and activists are gearing up for what they believe will be a tough legislative session. “I think we’re in for a real fight this year,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the activist group Grassroots Leadership. “If there’s anything this election shows us it’s that you can get elected by appealing to the worst in people when it comes to immigration — the worst.” Read more about NEW SANCTUARY CITIES IN TEXAS VOW TO RESIST DONALD TRUMP’S DEPORTATIONS

Nov 22, 2016
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The Huffington Post

Trump Has Not 'Softened' His War on Immigrants

Last week’s “60 Minute” interview with president elect Donald Trump prompted headlines suggesting that he might be “softening” his immigration stance, compared to his extreme campaign proposal to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. The media have it wrong.

Those of us who have worked to promote sensible and humane policies for decades are bracing for what may very well be an all-out war on immigrants of unprecedented scope and intensity.

Some news reports have offered an unjustifiably charitable interpretation of Mr. Trump’s recent statement to suggest that he is becoming more “targeted.” This view was based on a few short statements where he described vague plans to immediately deport or incarcerate those with “criminal records ― gang members, drug dealers, probably 2 million, it could even be 3 million” that are “here illegally.” Mr. Trump’s numbers are wrong, and his vision is anything but “soft.”  In fact, it is terrifying.  

To realize these numbers during a four-year term, to say nothing of a shorter “immediate” timeframe, would require deportation rates never before experienced in this country. This, despite the fact that migration levels to the United States are relatively low and that the current administration already broke the record for removal of immigrants, earning President Obama the title of “deporter in chief” in some circles. It took the Obama administration eight years to deport 2.5 million immigrants, while Mr. Trump apparently aims to hit those numbers in four years or less. Unlike Presidents Bush and Obama, both of whom used deportations as a political pawn in failed efforts to secure immigration reforms, the President Elect has never envisioned a path to citizenship for our nation’s immigrants.

The population as described by Mr. Trump simply does not exist. Trump’s depiction of 2-3 million immigrants as “illegal,” criminal and dangerous is a myth, rooted in poor math and biased fear-mongering. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has pointed out that the likely source for the numbers is a 2012 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate of 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens.” But more than half of this group are legally living and working in the United States. In typical Trumpian exaggeration, the President-Elect seems to have ignored that fact, and then tacked on an additional million to the DHS estimate to arrive at the fabricated 3 million.

Though Mr. Trump invokes stereotypes and fears of “dangerous illegal immigrants,” all those who’ve had a run in with the law are threatened, even those who are living and working with proper documentation, with families and no memories of a different home.

Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state and leading architect of Draconian anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona’s notorious “papers please” SB1070 law used to profile and harass suspected immigrants, is Donald Trump’s chief immigration enforcement guru. Instead of deporting only those convicted, Kobach proposes too instead scrap due process protections and deport immigrants who are arrested on suspicion of crimes or gang affiliation. In this model, local law enforcement becomes prosecutor, judge, and immigration officer.

Kobach also advocates using local police officers and jailers as the “eyes and ears of the federal government,” turning arrestees directly over to ICE for deportation. This will likely entail a rapid expansion of “287g,” a federal provision that “cross-designates” local law enforcement to serve as immigration enforcement agents, commissioning them to identify, process, and detain people suspected of being undocumented.

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But a majority in our nation opposes Mr. Trump’s extreme and hateful vision for immigrants. Surveys of Trump supporters, including exit polls, show that the majority support pathways to citizenship, which are not in Mr. Trump’s plans. Universities and colleges are declaring themselves sanctuary campuses. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck will not use local police to check papers or turn low-level offenders over to federal agents. Cities like New York, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Nashville, and others plan to fight Trump’s immigration agenda, with Mayor de Blasio vowing to destroy municipal identification records for immigrants rather than hand them over to immigration enforcement authorities. Churches across the country are declaring themselves sanctuaries to defend against pending deportations.

We should take Trump at his word, and anticipate that his administration will unleash a deportation regime unprecedented in recent U.S. history. We also must resist that regime at many levels by uniting with our immigrant friends, neighbors, loved ones, coworkers, and classmates in the fight for policies and programs that keep families and communities in tact. Read more about Trump Has Not 'Softened' His War on Immigrants

Nov 23, 2016
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The Washington Times

Trump stance on illegal immigration may aid private prisons

President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally and his selection of tough-on-crime Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general could mean big money for the private prison industry.

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Immigration detention centers are particularly profitable for private prison companies because they command a higher rate for each inmate bed, he said.

Yet what’s good for investors isn’t good for the country, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a national nonprofit group that works to reduce incarceration and detention rates.

“”They’re handing the keys to a deportation machine over to the Trump administration,” Libal said. “And I think there’s no reason to believe that the Trump administration won’t drive that machine forward through human rights protections or due process protections people in the detention system.” Read more about Trump stance on illegal immigration may aid private prisons

Nov 15, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

‘Sanctuary city’ bill filed as Senate priority

bill filed Tuesday would require Texas cities to enforce federal immigration laws or risk losing state money.

The legislation by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, seeks to short circuit “sanctuary city” policies that prohibit or discourage police, jail personnel, prosecutors and other officials from inquiring into the immigration status of anybody who has been arrested or detained.

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“It’s bad policy and bad policing to mix immigration and local law enforcement,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice and immigration reform advocacy group based in Austin. “People then conflate local police with immigration (agents) and are afraid to call the police.”

Several courts have found that requiring people to be held on suspicion that they are in the country illegally, without a warrant, violates the Constitution, Libal said.

“It’s mandating that communities violate the constitutional rights of their residents, and it’s setting communities up to be sued,” he said. Read more about ‘Sanctuary city’ bill filed as Senate priority

Nov 16, 2016
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International Business Times

How For-Profit Prisons Could Benefit Under President-Elect Donald Trump

Among President-elect Donald Trump's primary policy objectives once he officially assumes the nation's highest office is a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, and investors in the private prison industry, which benefits substantially from such laws, are taking note. 

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"It's certainly true that for-profit prison stocks are soaring on hopes that Trump will incarcerate more people," Bob Libal, executive director of the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told International Business Times in a phone interview. 

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Dismantling the DOJ's check on federal use of private prisons, “would be an enormously bad decision—we would be keeping prisons open that we don’t need, or seeking to fill them," Libal, the Grassroots Leadership director, said. He added that Companies like GEO Group “are betting heavily that Trump is going to be the savior of the for-profit prison industry." Read more about How For-Profit Prisons Could Benefit Under President-Elect Donald Trump

Oct 30, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis County Jail at election-year crossroads on immigration policy

The era of full cooperation with federal immigration authorities at the Travis County Jail is poised to come to an end in January with the likely election of Constable Sally Hernandez, the Democratic candidate for sheriff who has said she won’t honor all requests to turn over undocumented immigrants.

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“This is years in the making,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership. “If whoever the sheriff is adopts a policy like many of these other communities around the country that limits ICE’s ability, that is a good thing for immigrants, and it is a good thing for public safety.”

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Lower-level crimes that result in detainers continue to worry immigrant advocates. Libal said ICE programs can still break up families and exacerbate the challenges immigrant families already face.

“It breeds distrust and makes them reluctant to report crimes,” he said. “If someone serves their time and is rehabilitated, why deport them?”

Read more about Travis County Jail at election-year crossroads on immigration policy
Oct 20, 2016
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Rewire

ACLU, Advocates Want Next President to Upend Anti-Immigration Policies

Rewire spoke to the executive directors of two immigrant rights organizations about the issues they believe the next president should focus on. 

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In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released 'the Trump Memos', a constitutional analysis of Donald Trump's policy proposals and found that his immigration policies 'would most likely violate the Constitution, federal statuatory law, and/or international law'. The ACLU then released 'the Clinton Memos', a series of policies and reforms that Clinton should make if she is elected president. The ACLU's top recommendation for Clinton was that she end family detention, the practice of detaining asylum-seeking mothers and children in prisonlike conditions, with the goal of deporting them as quickly as possible. 

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Texas is home to two of the nation’s three remaining family detention centers, and the organization Grassroots Leadership is currently embroiled in a legal battle over state efforts to license these detention centers as child-care facilities under lowered standards. Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal told Rewire that detention is harmful to everyone, but there is plenty of evidence that it has a “tremendous negative impact” on the mental health and overall well-being of children.

“The next president and advocates have a lot of work to do to roll back this massive detention regime that has been built up over the last 20 years,” Libal said. “I think most people recognize that a good very first place to start is to stop the totally egregious detention of children and their moms.”

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Before that debate, Libal told Rewire that advocacy organizations like Grassroots Leadership wanted to hear both candidates go on record about their views on family detention, in particular, because it has been such a major part of Clinton’s immigration platform.

“I think it could have a big impact,” Libal said. “There are a lot of people who still don’t know about family detention and that the average age of children in these prisonlike facilities is 6 years old. We’re talking about really young children. Family detention, I think, has become representative of our entire broken [immigration] system. If we want to know what candidates are going to do about immigration enforcement broadly, a good place to start would be what they plan to do about the mass detention of kids and their moms who are seeking asylum in the United States.”

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If the next president doesn’t end family detention, “and if we continue on this path, it will be a mark on our country’s history,” said Libal.

 

  Read more about ACLU, Advocates Want Next President to Upend Anti-Immigration Policies

Oct 11, 2016
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Raw Story

New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’

A new film exposes the 'treatment industrial complex' that has sprung up following announcements that the Department of Justice will begin to phase out use of private prisons and that the Department of Homeland Security will review its' use of privately operated immigrant detention centers. 

As these announcements caused stock in private prison corporations to drop, companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have begun buying facilities that provide 'community corrections' programs, such as electronic monitoring, prisoner re-entry services, and other alternatives to prison.

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Robert Greenwald’s new film, “Treatment Industrial Complex,” produced by Brave New Films, shows how these companies are profiting off efforts to rehabilitate drug users and the mentally ill who become entangled in the criminal justice system.

These companies can only make money if they ensnare more Americans — and hold them as long as possible, said the film’s executive producer, Bob Libal.

Read more about New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’

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