Last month, members from Texans United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the Hutto Visitation Program wrote a joint letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking them to shut down the Harwell Center as a result of what they call limited " medical care, visitation, recreation, dirty uniforms, a lack of access to legal processes and attorneys, and the penal nature of the facility." Read more about Grassroots Activists Stand Up For Immigrants' Rights
"We're very happy the City Council has taken leadership on this issue," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.
"Republican sheriffs in California, Colorado, Kansas, rural Oregon, have said they're not going to violate people's rights and honor ICE detainers," Libal said. "It's very frustrating that the sheriff continues to demonize the immigrant community and perpetuate outright lies about them." Read more about Hamilton Digs In: Won't End 'S-Comm'
Travis County ranks 11th in the nation when it comes to the number of people deported. A total of 4,741 people have been deported from the county in the last fiveyears.
"I think that really puts him on the wrong side of history," Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership.
Libal said recent court decisions essentially allow jails to ignore requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain inmates. "This is devastating to the immigrant community," he said. "It also wastes taxpayer dollars, and it's illegal." Read more about Sheriff: Deportation Program is Federally Mandated
On Thursday, June 26, Austin city council members unanimously passed a resolution to oppose Travis County's participation in Secure Communities. Secure Communities, or S-Comm, is a federal program through which immigrants can be detained in local jails like the Travis County Jail until Immigration and Customs Encorcement (ICE) can take them into custody. The resolution is sponsored by council members Laura Morrison, Mike Martinez and mayor pro-tem Sheryl Cole. No one offered opposing remarks on this resolution.
A disappointing decision by the Obama administration was announced Friday morning in response to a recent influx of Central American migrants crossing through the Southwest border, many of them children. According to officials, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will seek to detain more of these individuals and accelerate their cases in immigration courts to speed up their deportations. Read more about Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis
Cristina Parker aún recuerda su primera visita a una mujer inmigrante detenida a la cual no conocía y que se encontraba recluida en uno de los Centros de Detención para Inmigrantes que hay en el país.
“Fue triste la primera vez que hice la visita, pero es más difícil para ellas estar ahí”, recordó Parker.
Parker es coordinadora del proyecto de inmigración de la organización ‘Grassroots Leadership’, misma agrupación que implementó el Programa de Visitas a Inmigrantes en Detención en el T. Don Hutto Detention Center en Taylor, Texas.
Mediante este programa se coordinan las visitas de voluntarios con el fin de romper con el aislamiento de los detenidos y destacando el significado emocional de una visita. Ahora su objetivo es crear otros programas similares en otros lugares de Texas, como podría ser en El Paso. Read more about Buscan incentivar visitas a inmigrantes detenidos
Grassroots Leadership says that Texas is “ground zero” with “more incarcerated people, immigration detention beds, and for-profit prisons than any other state.” That is why the national organization, founded in 1980 by activist and musician Si Kahn, moved its program operations to Austin in 2012.
I spoke with Executive Director Bob Libal about Grassroots Leadership and the group’s current organizing efforts in Travis County, Texas, and nationally. They have a solid track record of success. They helped shut down the notoriously bad Dawson State Jail, end the immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, and stop the expansion of the private prison industry. They also have an ambitious agenda for the future. Read more about Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers
Neither immgrants' rights groups or lawmakers have received the plan positively.
“Returning to mass family detention and deportation policies is a giant step backwards," said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group that opposes private immigration detention centers and advocates for immigration reform. Read more about White House Under Fire for Proposed Solution to Immigrant Surge
Every year, the federal Bureau of Prisons subjects tens of thousands of immigrants to lengthy prison sentences simply for unlawfully crossing the border. A new report from the ACLU and ACLU of Texas exposes an outrageous level of abuse, neglect and discrimination in these "Criminal Alien Requirement" (CAR) Prisons. Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Report exposes outrageous abuse and dangerous quotas inside prisons for migrants
“Our interest in the Harwell Detention Center stems from a history of concerns about the facility.” said Denise Gilman, a University of Texas-Austin law professor. “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention.”
In fact, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by a private prison company who expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable.
“If any facility is unable to comply with the standards, ICE should ensure that immigrants are not detained there.” said Barbara Hines, also a University of Texas law professor. “It does not appear that ICE officials adequately considered the situation at the facility before sending immigration detainees there.”
According to ICE’s own proclamations, a penal environment is not appropriate for immigrant detainees — the majority of whom have recently crossed the border and have no criminal history at all. “It is very clearly a penal institution,” added Hines.  Read more about Attorneys sound the alarm as ICE continues to detain immigrants in sub-standard Waco facility;