CCA

May 3, 2016
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Texas Observer

Immigrant Families Sue to Stop Licensing Detention Centers for Child Care

On Tuesday, Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit opposed to private prisons, is also a plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in state court in Austin. Grassroots Leadership and the detained mothers have asked a judge to stop the licensure both of the Karnes facility and the South Texas Residential Center in Dilley. Together, the two facilities currently house about 1,800 immigrant mothers and children, many of whom are fleeing gang violence and persecution in Central America.

“By all reasonable measures, family detention camps are prisons. They are not child care facilities,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership’s executive director, in a press release.

DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins told the Observer that the agency is “reviewing and consulting with the [Texas attorney general’s] office” regarding the lawsuit. Read more about Immigrant Families Sue to Stop Licensing Detention Centers for Child Care

May 3, 2016
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ABC News

Immigrant Family Detention Center Granted Child-Care License

One of the nation's largest detention centers for families caught crossing the southern U.S. border has received a temporary residential child-care license, amid discussions over whether the federal government will keep using such facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services granted the six-month license last week to the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said Tuesday. The private prison firm that runs the facility for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, GEO Group Inc., had requested it after a federal judge said last year that kids couldn't stay in the centers because they weren't approved to care for children.

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Immigrant advocates criticized the decision to grant the temporary license, citing reports of inadequate medical care and other issues as reasons why such facilities shouldn't get licenses. One group, Grassroots Leadership, said Tuesday that it and two mothers detained at Texas facilities with their children had sued in Austin to stop the licensing.

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"Anyone who has been to either of these facilities understands that they are prison facilities," said Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership. "The real question is, does an agency have the right to license a prison as a child-care facility? We think that the answer is no. They would have to go to the Legislature to get that approval." Read more about Immigrant Family Detention Center Granted Child-Care License

May 2, 2016
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Texas Observer

Texas Licenses Detention Center for Child Care, Despite Deficiencies

Texas has granted a temporary residential child care license to a controversial immigrant detention center, despite “deficiencies” uncovered in a recent inspection.

The initial license took effect Friday, April 29, said Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) spokesperson Patrick Crimmins.

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“It is deeply disappointing, but not surprising, that the state of Texas has put a rubber stamp on family detention at Karnes,” said Cristina Parker, immigration project coordinator at the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, in an emailed statement to the Observer. “Today, our state took this step not to protect children, but to protect the federal government from [the federal] order.” Read more about Texas Licenses Detention Center for Child Care, Despite Deficiencies

Mar 18, 2016
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The Guardian

Controversial Texas family detention center to change back to all-male facility

A controversial family detention center in Texas will be converted back to an adult male facility, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Thursday in the latest signal that the Obama administration will reduce the detention of women and children before the president’s time in office ends.

During a House appropriations committee hearing Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard asked the ICE director, Sarah Saldaña: “is it possible that ICE will stop using Karnes and Dilley [another facility] for families in [fiscal year 2017]?”

“Well, we’re pretty much there on the decision on Karnes,” Saldaña responded. “We are probably going to convert that into – our plans are to convert that into – an adult male, perhaps with children, facility. Not a family facility as it is now, with largely women.”

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Saldaña’s announcement comes as Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 cut his request for funding for family detention to 960 beds, about half the 1,800 requested the year before.

The reduction is a positive step, but it’s not enough, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which opposes private prisons.

“The question for the administration is will it go far enough for family detention not to be one of their legacy issues?” Libal asked. “Or will Obama go down as creating the largest trend in detaining families since Japanese internment?” Read more about Controversial Texas family detention center to change back to all-male facility

Mar 16, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Child Care Center or Baby Jail?

For more than a year now, immigration rights and child welfare advocates, human rights activists, and attorneys have called on the government to end the practice of holding immigrant women and their children in family detention centers, charging that they're "baby jails" that need to be closed.

However, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) sees things differently. DFPS, which is part of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, last month approved licensing family detention centers as child-care facilities.

"Child-care facilities exist to take care of children," wrote Virginia Raymond, an Austin-based immigration attorney who vocally opposes the move. The state of Texas, which requires most child-care centers to be licensed, also mandates through DFPS the specific minimal standards those centers must meet. Because family detention centers cannot meet those standards, these critical requirements are waived for the sole purpose of licensing these centers, so they can legally remain open. Read more about Child Care Center or Baby Jail?

Mar 3, 2016
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Fusion

Here’s the infographic that persuaded Bernie Sanders to speak out against private prisons

Private prison corporations, however, have increased their share of the immigrant detention industry. Nine of the ten largest detention centers—which detain immigrants who have entered the country without authorization—are run by private prisons. Immigrants who are caught illegally crossing in to the U.S. more than once are almost always held in private prisons facilities.

An estimated 62% of all immigration detention beds managed by ICE are operated by for-profit prison corporations, up from 49% in 2009, according to federal documents analyzed by Grassroots Leadership, a group whose mission it is end for-profit incarceration. Read more about Here’s the infographic that persuaded Bernie Sanders to speak out against private prisons

Mar 10, 2016
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Texas Observer

Child Careless

Licensing detention centers as child care facilities in order to circumvent rules banning the government from locking up kids and babies in cells.

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It’s an idea so dystopian you’d have a hard time stomaching it in a science fiction novel, so naturally Texas is doing it. Governor Greg Abbott has even said that licensing these places as child care centers will protect “the health and safety” of the kids.

If that sounds like a hilariously bad justification built on flimsy reasoning and subterfuge, it’s because… it is. What licensing prisons as child care centers does, in reality, is give the federal government’s immigration apparatus the legal permission it needs to keep children detained.

Why else would state officials try to quietly create special prison child care licenses by sidestepping the normal administrative process, without holding any public hearings, as they did in 2015?

Thanks to the efforts of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit working to end immigrant detention, a judge blocked the state’s underhanded attempt at incarcerating kids. When the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was forced to put its decision up for public scrutiny, Abbott was just about the only guy who thought it sounded like a swell idea.

Dozens of legal experts, advocates and immigrants voiced their opposition to these child care licenses at meeting after meeting. And all for nothing, it seems.

If Texas doesn’t license these detention centers as child care facilities, it could be forced to shut them down entirely, something immigration advocates have long been calling on the Obama administration to do.

The alternative is, I guess, unfathomable to people who see scared kids — not coincidentally, kids of color — as threats to civil society. Who knows what these children might do if they’re allowed to wait out the asylum process in broad daylight. Play on a swing set? Build a sand castle? Set up — the horror — a lemonade stand?

One day, I hope we’ll look back at the way we treated these vulnerable families and be ashamed. We’ll be unable to fathom a society that put the concepts of “child care” and “detention centers” in the same sentence. That day can’t come soon enough. Read more about Child Careless

Mar 10, 2016
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ThinkProgress

A Shocking Glimpse Inside America’s Privatized Detention Facilities For Immigrants

It’s not easy to find out what happens inside the walls of ICE’s numerous detention centers. Critics complain of a persistent culture of secrecy within the agency, and details about the circumstances of hunger strikes can be sparse even on the occasion that ICE will acknowledge one. Rarely will the agency grant more than a yes or no confirmation.

But through a FOIA request to ICE, ThinkProgress obtained a document that provides some clarity: CCA’s emergency food strike plan. The disciplinary nature of the company’s policy (embedded below) stood out to Carl Takei, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project who specializes in immigration detention.

“The thrust of the policy is to squelch the protest rather to address any medical or health concerns,” Takei told ThinkProgress after reviewing its content. “It’s very different from ICE’s hunger strike policy, because ICE’s hunger strike policy is primarily about medical procedures and medical concerns. This policy is about security and control.“

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The policy also carved out punishments for food strikers, noting that participants would have their all of their commissary purchasing privileges suspended, and could have radio, visitation, and phone privileges removed if the center’s commander chose.

“I think it’s telling that it describes a food strike as a passive-aggressive form of protest,” Takei said. “I haven’t seen a detailed policy like this that lays out both the punitive attitude and the punitive procedures. Usually this is something that is done much more informally.”

But punishment for the October incident allegedly went beyond what was written into CCA’s policy. Grassroots Leadership claims ICE and/or CCA retaliated against strikers by placing them in solitary confinement and then sending them to other detention centers. In response to a FOIA request, ICE told ThinkProgress that Hutto does not use solitary confinement.

But Zelaya claims she was placed in isolation at the detention center and sent to a frigid room by herself. “When I participated in the hunger strike for my life and health I did it because I didn’t feel that they took good care of me… and for participating they punished me,” she said in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “I was put in a room alone with so much cold, cold. I cried because my bones hurt from so much cold.”

Days later, she was transferred to a different facility, in Laredo, Texas. Read more about A Shocking Glimpse Inside America’s Privatized Detention Facilities For Immigrants

Feb 22, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

Outside Governor Greg Abbott’s office on Monday, immigrant and child advocates spread out blankets, coloring books and snacks, declaring the public space a “pop-up child-care facility.”

Organizers said they planned to spend the day roaming the Capitol grounds and asking parents whether they would be willing to leave their children with the volunteers, less than half a dozen people with little to no child care experience. The event, hosted by the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, was meant to underscore what advocates said is the absurdity of a new state rule that allows child-care licenses to be issued for immigrant family detention centers in South Texas.

“We all know (family detention) is a sham,” said Chuck Freeman, executive director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry. “We all know it’s dishonest. We all know we wouldn’t want our children there.” Read more about Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

Feb 12, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

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The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

The South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center — which can house up to 3,300 families awaiting immigration proceedings — had been in danger of closing because of a July federal court ruling that says children can only live in detention centers if they are licensed by state child welfare agencies. Texas’ facilities are not.

Until now, the state Department of Family and Protective Services had maintained that it didn’t have the legal authority to license, inspect and investigate the facilities. This week, the agency gave itself that power.

The two detention centers, both run by private prison companies, will have to apply for licenses, Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said. But that licensure is almost assured. For months, the state has insisted that regulation would help protect the children who live there. More recently, officials have also said keeping the centers open helps with immigration control. Federal officials asked Texas to license the facilities, Crimmins told the Statesman last month.

Immigration rights advocates criticized the state’s decision, saying the move is solely motivated by politics.

“I think the agency should be ashamed,” said Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prison companies. Read more about Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

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