childcare licenses

Apr 4, 2017
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Critics say lawmakers are trying to license 'little jails' to hold immigrant families

The state calls them family residential centers. Opponents have called them  “prisons for profit” and “little jails.”

On Wednesday, committees in both legislative chambers will address bills that would allow the Department of Family and Protective Services to license Texas facilities that house unauthorized mothers and children while they await their immigration hearings.

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In July 2015, a federal judge ruled that children can live in detention centers only if the centers are licensed by state child welfare agencies. Karnes and the South Texas facility, which is southwest of San Antonio, weren't licensed and faced closure.

To keep them from shuttering, in February 2016 the Department of Family and Protective Services gave itself the authority to license the facilities. Keeping them open helps the state deal with immigration control. But a state district court in December blocked Texas from issuing the licenses.

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, author of the Senate bill, said in a meeting of the committee on Veteran Affairs and Border Security last week that his proposal was meant to address the court ruling. Lawmakers on the committee are expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, while members of the House State Affairs committee will hear testimony on an identical bill by Rep. John Raney, R-College Station.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which brought the suit that halted the licensing of the centers, said immigrants have in the past been released to family members in the country after being issued notices to appear in court for their immigration hearings.

Most of these families are asylum seekers, Libal said, so they're not flight risks because there's an incentive for them to return to court and keep in contact with immigration officials. He said that family residential centers are not the only option and that his group would oppose the legislation to license them.

“There’s a whole range [of alternatives] that are less harsh than detaining families,” he said. Read more about Critics say lawmakers are trying to license 'little jails' to hold immigrant families

Dec 6, 2016
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Fox News Latino

460 undocumented immigrants released from Texas family detention centers

More than 400 women and children were released from two Texas immigration detention centers over the weekend, after they were found to be holding families in violation of Texas law.

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They came from the only two detention centers in the state – the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley – that have been licensed to hold children, but a state District Court judge, Karin Crump, on Friday invalidated those licenses.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton's office filed an appeal in an effort to make stand the Department of Family and Protective Services license of the facilities as residential child-care centers. The licenses are needed because a federal judge ruled last year the centers would have to eventually release the immigrant children if they didn't get them.

Judge Crump ruled the department cannot issue the licenses without offering an explanation for her decision, saying only that “runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code and is, therefore, invalid.”

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The company that operates the Karnes City center, GEO Group, said in a statement to the San Antonio Express-News that the lawsuit brought by Grassroots Leadership is without merit. Read more about 460 undocumented immigrants released from Texas family detention centers

Dec 5, 2016
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The Monitor

Family detention centers blocked

An Austin judge blocked the licensing of two family immigrant detention centers in Texas on Friday following a recommendation from a Department of Homeland Security committee to stop detaining families.

Judge Karin Crump of the 250th state District Court invalidated the Texas regulation that allowed for the licensure of the nation’s two largest family detention centers located in Karnes and Dilley.

Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid representing the plaintiffs in the case, argued that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is only granted authority to regulate child care facilities and that family jails are not childcare facilities.

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The plaintiffs also said that family detention is harmful to children and that licensing the facilities under lowered standards would only increase the harm suffered by children.

A similar argument was made recently by the DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers. In an October report released a few weeks ago, the committee recommended DHS, “simply avoid detaining families.”

“DHS’s immigration enforcement practices should operationalize the presumption that detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families,” the report states, “And that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management, are never in the best interest of children.”

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One plaintiff testified that her daughter had been spoken to and touched inappropriately by another unrelated detainee sharing their room at the Karnes center, according to a news release from Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based national organization fighting to end private prisons.

Immigration Attorney Jodi Goodwin testified in court that in addition to the damage to detained children’s physical and mental health, attorney Goodwin also testified that detention itself hindered a family’s ability to successfully present their asylum case in court.

The plaintiffs also argued that licensing the detention centers would result in lengthier stays of these families. Read more about Family detention centers blocked

May 12, 2016
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ABC News

Texas Court to Hear Challenge on Immigrant Detention Centers

A court hearing Friday over the licensing of immigrant detention centers in Texas is likely to delve into the unresolved question of whether children illegally crossing the southern U. S. border can be held for long periods at facilities that federal officials say are vital to prepare for another wave of immigrant families this summer.

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Austin-based Grassroots Leadership wants a temporary injunction that would delay the granting of a child care facility license to the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. The other Texas detention center, the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, was granted a temporary license in April.

"This is part of a broader effort, both federal litigation and a lot of advocacy, calling on the administration to not make the largest trend in locking up families since Japanese internment part of its immigration legacy," said Bob Libal, Grassroots' executive director. Read more about Texas Court to Hear Challenge on Immigrant Detention Centers

May 10, 2016
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RT

For-profit prison earnings increase due to surge in immigrant family detention centers

Two of the country’s largest for-profit prison companies reported to shareholders that their earnings have swelled thanks to detention centers holding immigrant families.

The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private corrections firm in the United States, reported revenue of $447.4 million in the first quarter of 2016, a 5 percent increase from the same quarter a year prior, the company reported in a statement.

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“It’s sickening to hear CCA and GEO brag about their profitable quarter to shareholders,” Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at the immigrant advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement.“That money is made off the suffering of mothers and children who came to the US for refuge.” Read more about For-profit prison earnings increase due to surge in immigrant family detention centers

May 10, 2016
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Texas Observer

‘She Lives in Fear,’ Not in El Salvador, but in Texas Detention

After surviving multiple rapes and death threats from MS-13 gang members, a 35-year-old Salvadoran mother gathered up her 12-year-old daughter and fled to the United States in hopes of seeking asylum. But when they arrived in South Texas in March, she says, they faced a new nightmare — an immigrant detention center where they experienced sexual abuse at the hands of another woman housed in the same room.

The mother, referred to as E.G.S. in court documents, and her daughter are detained in the Karnes County Residential Center, a 500-bed federal immigration detention facility run by the private prison company GEO Group, Inc. Between Karnes and a second facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining approximately 1,800 immigrant mothers and children in Texas.

But in order to comply with a federal order that children be housed in licensed residential centers, Texas must categorize these detention facilities as state child care providers. After a controversial start — Texas made its first attempts to license the facilities behind closed doors without public hearings last fall — the state issued its first child care license to the prison company that manages the Karnes facility in late April.

Now, E.G.S and another mother, along with the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, have sued to stop the state from issuing further licenses. An Austin judge has temporarily halted the licensing until a court hearing Friday. Read more about ‘She Lives in Fear,’ Not in El Salvador, but in Texas Detention

May 6, 2016
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The Atlantic

Is it an Immigration Detention Facility or a Child-Care Center?

The U.S. has three family detention centers, used to hold migrant children and their mothers as they apply for asylum, and the two largest are in Texas. One is in Dilley, the other in Karnes. They’re both dusty towns between San Antonio and the Mexican border, and together they have about 3,500 beds.

The facilities have been at the center of a legal fight in Texas courts this week. The issue is whether one of these centers could or should be considered a child-care facility. The Obama administration has tried to get Texas to grant its Karnes County Residential Center a child-care license, arguing that the designation would serve in the best interest of immigrant children, who are held there as they’re screened for asylum. But immigration advocates hope to shut down the centers, which they view as prisons––or at the very least, they want the children released. This strange-sounding struggle over a label is about legal semantics, but it’s also about how the U.S. chooses and is allowed to treat migrant children.  Read more about Is it an Immigration Detention Facility or a Child-Care Center?

May 6, 2016
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NPR

Texas Judge Refuses To License Child Care Facility In Immigrant Detention Center

The latest development made headlines late last week when the Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services quietly granted a childcare license to the Karnes County Residential Center, run by The GEO Group Inc.

An Austin-based advocacy group, Grassroots Leadership, quickly sued.

"Our contention is that the agency does not have the authority to license prisons as children-care facilities, and these family detention camps are prisons," says Bob Libal, executive director of the organization.

On Wednesday, the state judge granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the state agency from granting another license to a second, larger family detention center. The South Texas Family Residential Center is run by Corrections Corp. of America. Read more about Texas Judge Refuses To License Child Care Facility In Immigrant Detention Center

May 6, 2016
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The Monitor

COMMENTARY: Remembering all moms, including detained immigrants and their children, this Mother's Day

Libal’s group also has asked a judge to strike down a temporary residential child care license that was issued to the 500-bed Karnes facility, where I toured.

Sure that center has wall drawings by children and child-friendly posters but I would not in any way liken it to a real childcare center, places where some working moms drop their toddlers during the day, give center staff instructions on the type of care they’d like for their youth and the freedom to pick them up and leave with them every evening.

These detained women can’t even eat lunch with their children, much less leave without a judge’s order.

And so as we go into this Mother’s Day weekend and our nation celebrates the blessings of mothers, may we also remember these little ones whose mothers are locked up, unable to cook for their own children or even tell them what to eat. And may our nation, and our state, be guided by our hearts to do better by them. Read more about COMMENTARY: Remembering all moms, including detained immigrants and their children, this Mother's Day

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