Judge Dolly Gee

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 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

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

Dec 17, 2015
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The Austin Chronicle

Speakers Testify Against Detention Facility Relicensing

Public testimony having concluded at the close of business Monday, officials from the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) will now embark on an open-ended deliberation period in which the agency will consider whether to approve two private detention facilities – run by for-profit corporations in cooperation with the Homeland Security's Immigration & Customs Enforcement division – as licensed residential centers for undocumented children.

The proposed relicensing comes in the wake of an eventful half-year that began in July, when California District Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered that migrant children be released from family detention centers. The conditions, she decided, were in violation of an agreement that barred children from being held in unlicensed facilities. DFPS's response was to convert the two facilities, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, into licensed child-care centers – though the change would be made in name only, not practice. Local advocacy group Grassroots Leadership won a temporary injunction to stop the relicensing in November to allow for public testimony. Read more about Speakers Testify Against Detention Facility Relicensing

Dec 11, 2015
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RH Reality Check

Advocates: Don’t License Texas Detention Centers as Child-Care Facilities

Dozens of immigrant rights organizers, child welfare advocates, academic researchers, and immigrant families released from detention centers gathered at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) headquarters on Wednesday for a public hearing regarding a proposed rule to license the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley as child-care facilities. Both family detention centers have documented histories of human rights abuses, including the abuse of children.

In November, the Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership won a temporary injunction in its suit to stop DFPS from licensing the family detention centers as child-care facilities under an emergency rule, which would have eliminated the minimum child safety standards applicable to all child-care facilities in the state.

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which works to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention, told RH Reality Check that Wednesday’s hearing was a direct result of the injunction that forced DFPS to hear the public’s concerns around using these prisons as child-care facilities.

“Dozens and dozens of people came to testify,” Libal said. “All of them were against licensing these facilities as child-care centers. We had a diverse group of advocates and people with lived experience of being in these facilities and working in these facilities and all of them testified that family prison should never be a child-care facility.” Read more about Advocates: Don’t License Texas Detention Centers as Child-Care Facilities

Oct 23, 2015
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Huffington Post

Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

One of the three facilities that detains immigrant families in the United States will not be allowed to expand and could lose its license to operate from the state of Pennsylvania -- a major win for the advocacy groups aiming to shut down family detention.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services sent a letter on Thursday to the director of Berks County Residential Center denying a request to double its capacity from 96 to 192. That is because the facility is being used to hold "only refugee immigrant families" when its license is for "child resident facilities," Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas wrote.

If the facility continues to serve families rather than children, the department will not renew its license when it expires in February 2016, Dallas added.

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In July, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the family detention policy violated the 1997 Flores settlement, which says that undocumented children must be held in the least restrictive setting and immigration authorities should generally favor a policy of releasing them. The settlement prohibits detaining children for more than a few days in centers that are not licensed child care facilities.

After hearing a government response, Gee ordered the Obama administration in August to quickly release the children -- and in some instances, the mothers -- locked in family detention. She gave U.S. officials until Oct. 23 to show compliance. 

In order to comply with the ruling, the private companies that run the two family detention centers in Texas -- Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group -- have applied to license the centers as child care facilities. The Texas Department of Child Protective Services issued an emergency rule last month to start the licensing process, but the Austin-based group Grassroots Leadership, which opposes the private prison industry, filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping it. Read more about Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

Court rules family detention illegal!

On Friday night, Judge Dolly Gee released the long-awaited decision in the case against family detention. She ruled that the Administration’s family detention policy violates the terms of the Flores settlement, which lays out minimum conditions for children held in federal immigration custody. Watch a quick video here by AILA attorneys with the main points of the decision and what happens next.

In the decision, Judge Gee excoriates the government's reasoning for maintaining family detention in phrases that display the same outrage felt by immigrant advocates. "It is astonishing that Defendants [ICE] have enacted a policy requiring such expensive infrastructure without more evidence to show that it would be compliant with an Agreement that has been in effect for nearly 20 years or effective at achieving what Defendants hoped it would accomplish," Gee wrote.

Read more about Court rules family detention illegal!

Texas advocates and attorneys applaud court’s decision on family detention

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Texas advocates and attorneys applaud Judge Dolly Gee’s decision, released Friday night, that the Administration’s family detention policy violates the terms of the Flores settlement, which lays out minimum conditions for children held in federal immigration custody. The advocates urge the Administration not to appeal this decision and to immediately close all three family detention camps. Read more about Texas advocates and attorneys applaud court’s decision on family detention

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