immigrant family detention

May 31, 2017
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The Associated Press

Texas immigration lockdowns holding some families too long

 Afghan asylum seeker Samira Hakimi and her family members — three of them young children — have spent six months inside a Texas immigration lockdown, even though state lawmakers adjourned this week without passing legislation to circumvent federal rules on housing minors at such facilities.

The proposals that died in the legislative session would have licensed the immigrant detention facilities as childcare providers to avoid a requirement stipulating minors can be held no longer than 20 days.

Immigrant welfare advocates celebrated the failure of the bills, which they said would have caused further physical and psychological harm to children. Still, the federal government continues to hold some families long past the allotted time.

“The failure of the bill as good of news as that is doesn’t seem to have done these families any good,” said Cristina Parker, immigration programs coordinator for the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership.

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Denise Gilman, director of the University of Texas immigration law clinic, said the prolonged detentions are a clear violation of the law.

One bill, conceived by lobbyists for the for-profit prison company GEO Group, would have allowed the state’s health department to waive minimum childcare licensing standards for GEO’s 832-bed facility and a 2,400-bed one operated by another private prison company.

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But fellow Republican state Rep. Byron Cook, who heads the powerful Texas House State Affairs Committee, declined to hold a vote on the proposal because he said “there was a lot of anguish” about it. Pediatricians and child welfare advocates were among dozens of people in a hearing to decry the bill, claiming it indeed served to prolong detention, harming children physically and psychologically.

“This affirms the fact that the state does not have the ability to license the facilities at all,” Parker said.

The U.S. government began the long-term detention of families in 2014, responding to an influx of women and children seeking asylum from record gang violence in Central America — but by the following year a federal judge ruled against holding kids in locked facilities unlicensed as childcare providers beyond 20 days. Then Texas attempted to license the facilities, but a state judge ruled they weren’t fit to be licensed.

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Fischer, Parker and Gilman all said that at this point, even 20-day stays violated the law — because the 2015 court ruling ordered that except in times of immigration surges, three days is the maximum allowed detention for children. Currently, border crossers are at a low.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not comment on the prolonged detention of the Hakimis or other families, but said that “ICE makes determinations on a case-by-case basis considering all the merits and factors of each case while adhering to current guidelines and legal mandates.” Read more about Texas immigration lockdowns holding some families too long

Mar 30, 2017
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The Huffington Post

Texas Republicans Hope To Give Child Care Licenses To Family Detention Centers

Republican state senators took a first step toward licensing two controversial family detention centers as child care facilities on Wednesday, selling the possible change as a way to keep the Trump administration from splitting up immigrant mothers and children at the border.  

At a hearing of the Texas Senate’s Veterans Affairs and Border Security Committee, Republicans said a bill relaxing standards for child care licenses would help the family detention centers skirt problems posed by ongoing lawsuits.

But critics ― including legal groups, members of the Catholic Church and immigrant rights advocates ― described family detention centers as little more than “baby jails.” Citing the fact that most of the mothers and children in detention are Central Americans fleeing violence who apply for asylum, they say there’s no need for family detention centers at all.

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The Obama administration hastily expanded the all-but-abandoned family detention policy back in 2014, as tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossed into the United States. Two family immigrant detention centers, both run by private prison contractors, currently operate in Texas. But the policy of detaining mothers with their children for extended periods has prompted lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled in 2015 that locking up immigrant children with their mothers violated the Flores settlement, which requires children to be detained in non-secure facilities and generally favors their release. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issued emergency rules that year to reclassify the state’s detention centers as “child care” facilities under state law to help them comply with the ruling.

But in a case brought by former detainees and the activist group Grassroots Leadership, a state judge later ruled that family detention centers simply don’t fit the definition of a child care facility under Texas law.

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And authorities wouldn’t actually have to separate mothers and children at the border if the family detention centers became adult facilities. Nothing in immigration law requires them to be detained at all.

In practice, many of the undocumented women and children apprehended by authorities never see the inside of a detention center after crossing into the United States. Instead, they receive a notice to appear in immigration court and fight their cases from outside detention. Most of them petition for asylum or some other permission to stay in the United States for humanitarian reasons. Read more about Texas Republicans Hope To Give Child Care Licenses To Family Detention Centers

Nov 17, 2016
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Broadly

Trump’s Win Has Already Boosted Stocks of Private Prison Companies

Deporting one immigrant costs about $10,000. According to the United States Department of Justice, the government spends approximately $5,600 on each immigrant held in a detention center. Trump has vowedto deport two to three million immigrants when he takes office in January, which means the US could spend nearly $17 billion on detention in the coming few years. 

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"Federal immigrant detention is the private prison cash cow," says Cristina Parker, the director of immigration programs at Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that focuses on the private prison industry. "Stocks going up was a very rational response to someone saying he's going to greatly expand the police state and deportation machine."

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"They were on the run, their stocks dropped, shareholders were suing them, things were looking really bad for them," Parker says. "Trump changed all that."

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In one letter sent to Grassroots Leadership by 11 women at the CoreCivic-run Laredo detention center, inmates complained about inadequate medical care and access to lawyers and other representation. One woman said that they'd been kept in a cold room overnight, leading her to develop a severe cold. Another, who has diabetes, said she had to hide bread from the guards so that she could eat it in secret when her blood sugar gets low. The women also complained of black water flooding the facilities, being given food that made them ill, and being denied access to the bathroom.

"When we go out for recreation they watch over us with shotguns in their hands as if we were criminals," one woman wrote to Grassroots Leadership. "Since because of the physical damages that I already have in my body from firearms and the psychological impact of that, they make me feel afraid." Read more about Trump’s Win Has Already Boosted Stocks of Private Prison Companies

Jul 28, 2015
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San Diego Free Press

Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

"A social worker formerly employed at a for-profit family immigrant detention center in Texas blew the whistle this week on the prison’s inhumane conditions—from solitary confinement to medical neglect—that she said amount to child abuse and torture.

The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the country that has faced numerous accusations of atrocities and civil rights violations. It is also the site of recent—and repeated—hunger strikes led by mothers incarcerated with their children, in protest of their conditions, detentions, and in many cases, their looming deportations.
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Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, toldCommon Dreams that there are signs that the tide may be finally turning against these 'wrong, immoral, and traumatizing' prisons." Read more about Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

Jul 28, 2015
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International Business Times

Immigration Reform: Backlash Against Family Detention Could Spark Momentum Against Detention System, Activists Say

"A federal court ruling against the U.S.’s family detention policy for undocumented immigrants could be the final blow to the Obama administration’s contentious practice after months of rising political pressure. But some of the advocates who pushed hard against family detention were hoping the heightened attention might provide a new opening to rally against conditions in the larger U.S. immigration detention system.

'The court ruling found detention illegal for women and children, but we hope that that will impact detention overall, and that people will start seeing there’s a systemic problem,' said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based group that helped organize some of the high-profile protests against family detention in recent months.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling, issued late Friday, found the Obama administration failed to meet the legal requirements in a 1997 settlement for housing undocumented immigrant children, adding that mothers and children in family detention centers stayed in “deplorable” conditions. The 25-page ruling ordered the families to be released. The federal government was given until August 3 to respond to the order, either by laying out a plan for releasing the remaining 1,700 undocumented immigrants in three family detention facilities -- in Karnes County, Texas, Dilley, Texas and Leesport, Pennsylvania -- or by explaining why it should not have to comply with the order." Read more about Immigration Reform: Backlash Against Family Detention Could Spark Momentum Against Detention System, Activists Say

Jul 9, 2015
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The Dallas Observer

Texas Immigrant Prison Accidentally Gave a Bunch of Kids an Adult-Strength Vaccine

"...The vaccine overdose was exposed on July 4 by immigration attorneys, who, along with prisoner advocates, are using the instance to make the case that family detention camps are inhumane and should be shut down. The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, one of two corporations that has profited tremendously from the influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border.

The Dilley center, which now has 2,400 beds, is the largest of its kind in the United States. A report by the prison advocacy group Grassroots Leadership earlier this year found that the CCA has in particular benefited from the "bed quota," the mandate passed by lawmakers that says the Department of Homeland Security must  "maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds."

Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, describes a traumatic atmosphere at the South Texas camp: "..children have been forced to sleep with the lights on, are subject to intrusive checks regularly throughout the night, and have been dragged from their beds at 4 a.m. to be given shots while their mothers must stand helplessly by without being told what is going on or being allowed a say in the matter."

Grassroots Leadership consulted with a University of Texas medical student, who said that, while most of the kids should be fine, 'the symptoms that Barbara [Hines] saw are consistent with vaccine overdose ... This is a red flag warning of deeper problems with medical care in detention centers, and reminds us why private prison corporations should not be entrusted with the care of children.'" Read more about Texas Immigrant Prison Accidentally Gave a Bunch of Kids an Adult-Strength Vaccine

Jul 1, 2015
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The Monitor

Letter to the Editor: Ankle monitoring is an alternative form of detention, not an alternative to detention

A letter to the editor from Bethany Carson, immigration policy analyst and organizer says, "the Monitor’s June 28 editorial on family detention centers cited ankle monitoring as a key alternative to long-term family detention. While the inhumane warehousing of asylum seekers in secure, for-profit facilities must come to an end, ankle monitoring is an alternative form of detention — not an alternative to detention...

Ankle monitors are particularly inappropriate to use with certain groups, as illuminated after they were placed on 400 Garífuna women in New York. An international advocacy group working with the women stated that this electronic shackling caused them to recall their historic trauma of enslavement by colonizers in Honduras.

Electronic monitoring also carries a profit incentive for the same corporation that runs the family detention camp at Karnes City: GEO Group Inc. BI Inc., which contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide electronic monitoring, was acquired by GEO Group in 2011 — a corporation which has spent enormous sums on political contributions and lobbying on immigration issues." Read more about Letter to the Editor: Ankle monitoring is an alternative form of detention, not an alternative to detention

Jul 6, 2015
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Latinos Health

Hepatitis A Vaccine in Adult Dose Given to Children in Detention Center

 

"Fox News reports that according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), around 250 immigrant children detained in a facility in Dilley, Texas have been given the adult dosage of hepatitis A vaccines earlier this week. Spokesperson Richard Rocha says the children's parents have already been advised and counseled about potential side effects, although none of the children have shown any adverse risks yet.

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The Texas facility, constructed in 2014, is one of the three detention facilities that holds illegal immigrants. Activists called for the closure of the centers due to substandard services. Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer of Grassroots Leadership, said these facilities lock up immigrants, causing lasting mental trauma and distress to people." Read more about Hepatitis A Vaccine in Adult Dose Given to Children in Detention Center

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