dilley

Mar 16, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Shortened detention stays put immigration officials in bind

As officials shorten the amount of time that families are held at South Texas’ immigration detention centers, methods of providing access to legal representation and education at the facilities are becoming outdated.

Top-ranking immigration officials heard from activists, experts and practitioners about how to improve conditions in the detention facilities during a San Antonio meeting of the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers on Wednesday. The committee spent Tuesday touring the local detention facilities.

As of Tuesday, there were 449 immigrants held at the family detention center in Karnes County and 468 at the sprawling center in Dilley.

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A series of nonprofit workers, immigration attorneys and Catholic nuns told committee members that the facilities in Karnes County and Dilley are tantamount to jails and that improvements won’t fix the problems of holding women and children fleeing violence.

“The only solution for this is to close these places down,” said Alejandro Caceres, a 28-year-old lawful permanent resident from Honduras and an immigration organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Shortened detention stays put immigration officials in bind

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?

Feb 29, 2016
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Reading Eagle

Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

The Berks County Residential Center is not the only family detention center looking for licensing.

The country's only other family detention facilities, which are in Texas, are also working to get certification to hold children.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission recently announced that it will open a licensing pathway for the South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center to obtain licenses that allow them to hold families beginning Tuesday.

The move to license the facilities began in September when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services submitted a proposed emergency rule to the commission to create a new child care licensing category for family detention centers.

That proposal was soon met with an outcry from Grassroots Leadership, a group leading the charge against the centers in Texas.

"We won a temporary injunction because the court recognized there was no emergency other than (U.S. District Judge Dolly M.) Gee's order," said Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership's immigration programs director. Read more about Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

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

Feb 16, 2016
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RH Reality Check

For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission approved a proposed rule Friday to reduce child-care standards, permitting two for-profit detention centers detaining hundreds of children in the state to move forward with the licensing process.

Grassroots Leadership, the Texas-based organization that won a temporary injunction in November in its suit to stop the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from licensing Karnes County Residential Center and Dilley’s South Texas Family Residential Center as child-care facilities under an emergency rule, said in a press release that Friday’s ruling could set a dangerous precedent.

The emergency rule would have eliminated minimum child safety standards applicable to all child-care facilities in Texas. Because Grassroots Leadership received the temporary injunction, Karnes and Dilley were forced to go through the traditional licensing procedure, which enabled immigrant rights organizers, child welfare advocates, academic researchers, and immigrant families released from detention centers to attend December’s public hearing at DFPS and comment on the proposal to license the family detention centers as child-care facilities.

An open records request obtained by Grassroots Leadership found that DFPS received more than 5,000 pages filled with comments, letters, emails, and testimony that were “overwhelmingly against” adopting the proposed rule. Read more about For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

Feb 16, 2016
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Houston Public Media

Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, DFPS, announced last Friday it will allow two facilities that house undocumented families, including minors, to obtain a license to remain open.

Most of the detainees at these facilities –located in Dilley and Karnes City, south of San Antonio—arrived in the United States during the surge of undocumented immigrants of 2014.

Last July, Federal Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, was breaking the terms of a 1997 settlement.

The settlement requires undocumented minors to be removed from detention centers as quickly as possible.

If the federal government can’t do that, the children must be housed in facilities licensed by state agencies responsible for child welfare.

In Texas, that agency is the Department of Family and Protective Services, which, just last week, established a new category of facilities called family residential centers.

Dilley and Karnes City will be under that category and, therefore, allowed to apply for the pertinent license after March 1st, which is when the new category will go into effect.

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Bob Libal is the executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which opposes keeping undocumented families in detention centers.

Libal argues the new category will help the federal government keep the facilities open.

“This was essentially an effort to help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the private prison corporations keep these facilities open when we know these facilities are dangerous for children,” said Libal, referring to the decision by DFPS. Read more about Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

Feb 8, 2016
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ThinkProgress

Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

Texas state officials are moving ahead with a proposal to license controversial detention centers for detained immigrant families as child care facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council submitted a proposed rule last week that would create a child care licensing category at two family detention centers located in Dilley and Karnes City. The proposed rule is up for consideration with the state’s Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), though it’s as yet unknown when the commission will make a final decision, the Texas Observer reported.

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The category change has been widely condemned by child welfare and immigrant rights activists who gathered before the meeting to demand that state officials scrap plans. An Open Records Request obtained by the activist organization, Grassroots Leadership, found that Texas DFPS Commissioner Judge John Specia, Jr. and Texas Governor Greg Abbott “received more than 5,000 pages worth of comments in opposition to the proposal,” according to a press statement. Read more about Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

Jan 29, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

No easy answers as Texas weighs fate of immigrant detention centers

The speakers trekked to the podium one after another, simultaneously lambasting and pleading with a panel of child protection officials weighing the fate of thousands of immigrant mothers and children in detention centers.

Why on earth, they demanded to know, would state officials even think about licensing these places as child care facilities?

“They are prisons, plain and simple,” said Antonio Diaz, an anti-detention center advocate with the Texas Indigenous Council. “They are prisons for profit.”

And so it went for four hours at the December public hearing on whether the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services should license and regulate two Texas facilities that house undocumented mothers and children. But that debate is coming to an end. The agency is expected to announce its decision in the next few weeks.

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“This is not about the welfare of children,” said Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes the private prison industry. “This is a desperate attempt for the state to bail out the federal government’s immigrant detention regime.” Read more about No easy answers as Texas weighs fate of immigrant detention centers

Jan 15, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Women and Children First: Immigration raids targeting families strike fear in Austin's Latino community

The new year has brought with it a renewed effort to seize and deport undocumented immigrants and refugees. On Jan. 4, Department of Homeland Security Sec­re­ta­ry Jeh Johnson issued a press release announcing, "This past weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) engaged in concerted, nationwide enforcement operations to take into custody and return at a greater rate adults who entered this country illegally with children. This should come as no surprise. I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed." Johnson went on to say that the targets of the operation were "adults and their children who (i) were apprehended after May 1, 2014 crossing the southern border illegally, (ii) have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court, and (iii) have exhausted appropriate legal remedies, and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws."

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In Austin, it is unclear whether anyone has been seized as part of the ICE raids. Rumors of raids on Rundberg and Down­town have circulated, but have not been confirmed. Regardless, there are many in the immigrant community who believe they're potential targets. For now, the primary response from immigrant rights advocates has been to organize "Know Your Rights" trainings for the undocumented, which largely consist of warning people not to open the door to ICE agents, as well as planning for families who might be left behind if some members were deported. Workers Defense Project plans to hold trainings every Thursday at 7pm, and City Council Member Greg Casar, whose District 4 has the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the city, said his office has received calls from constituents who are "afraid about the fact that ICE could be knocking on someone's door and taking them away." Casar said that his office is working on gathering information about the raids, including whether ICE has requested the assistance of local law enforcement. Of course, City Council can only do so much about what is a federal policy. "We don't want to give the impression that by City Council resolution, we're going to stop the raids," Casar said. In the spirit of "directing as much of our advocacy as possible toward solving problems," Casar's office plans to partner with Grass­roots Leadership to hold a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30. The meeting will include information on immigrants' rights as well as on other services, including places where those who fear deportation can seek sanctuary.

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Many observers believe the raids are an attempt by the Obama administration to demonstrate that it can be tough on immigration, even as it pushes for immigration reform. The lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the constitutionality of Oba­ma's executive action expanding DACA and DAPA is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court this year. The raids are "proof that Obama doesn't care about actual immigrant community members," said Grass­roots Leadership Immigration Organ­izer Alejandro Caceres. "We're political pawns." Read more about Women and Children First: Immigration raids targeting families strike fear in Austin's Latino community

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