lawsuit

Feb 23, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Lawsuit: Taylor facility forces detainees to work for little or no pay

"A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday argues that a company that manages immigrant detention centers — including the T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor — is violating the federal Trafficking Victims and Protection Act by forcing labor on those in the center.

...The T. Don Hutto center has been in the spotlight recently after Austin-based activist group Grassroots Leadership said it received letters from three women accusing guards at the detention center of sexual misconduct. One of those women is Laura Monterrosa, who has said she was sexually assaulted by a female guard." Read more about Lawsuit: Taylor facility forces detainees to work for little or no pay

Dec 6, 2016
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Texas Tribune

Immigration detention centers will continue operating despite judge's ruling

Two privately run immigration detention centers in Texas will continue their normal operations despite a Travis County judge’s ruling last week that prevents the state from licensing the facilities as child care centers.

Late Friday, state District Judge Karin Crump ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could not issue the licenses, which are needed to comply with a federal judge’s order issued last year. The centers are in Dilley and Karnes City and are operated by Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, respectively.

The companies are under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the centers holding some of the tens of thousands of Central American women and children that have illegally crossed into Texas since 2014. The centers have been criticized by rights groups for allegedly operating more like prisons. 

The Texas DFPS granted the GEO Group a license for its facility earlier this year. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company always adheres to current standards. 

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But the ruling would invalidate the company's license, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an immigrants rights group that filed the lawsuit.

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The licensing has been a critical step since July 2015 when U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered that immigrants held in Texas and elsewhere should be released because their detention violates the provisions of a 1997 legal settlement — the Flores v. Meese agreement — that requires undocumented juveniles be held in centers that protect their overall health and safety. The licenses would provide for more oversight of the facilities, state officials said last year when they began the process.

Libal said he didn’t expect the facilities to clear out immediately after the ruling and expected an appeal. But he said the ruling will affect how the government and the companies move forward.

“The Flores settlement says that unlicensed and secure detention centers cannot detain children. I think that these facilities would be operating outside of that,” he said. “I know that’s a question for federal courts, but I’m happy that the court has reiterated what we’ve been saying and what’s basically common sense — that a prison is not a child care facility.” Read more about Immigration detention centers will continue operating despite judge's ruling

Dec 6, 2016
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Texas Observor

More Than 500 Central American Families Freed from Detention after Court Ruling

An immigrant shelter and a Mennonite church in San Antonio are hosting hundreds of Central American women and children released unexpectedly over the weekend from two detention centers in South Texas.

Volunteers are scrambling to house all the families, who now need to secure bus and airplane tickets so they can reunite with relatives in the United States. Some advocates suspect the mass release of immigrants is due to a court ruling last Friday that prohibits Texas from licensing immigration jails as child care facilities.

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Despite comments from RAICES saying the releases over the weekend are unprecedented, ICE said in a prepared statement that it was “scheduled as part of normal operations and not in response to the court ruling.”

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“For whatever reason, the releases are a good thing,” said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group that was a plaintiff in the lawsuit settled last Friday. Grassroots Leadership, along with detained Central American women and children, sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) after it granted a child care license to private prison corporation Geo Group to fill the detention center in Karnes with women and children from Central America who were seeking asylum.

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Libal said the state of Texas rubber-stamped the immigrant jails to placate the federal government, allowing for substandard child care regulations such as housing eight unrelated people in the same room.

But after last Friday’s court ruling, the state can no longer provide the certification, which means the two family immigrant detention facilities are out of compliance with federal law. Libal said he and many others would like to see the child detention facilities close for good. But it’s still unclear whether there’s any penalty for being out of compliance, or whether ICE will stop detaining children anytime soon.

The state is already appealing Friday’s ruling, Libal said. “The Obama administration shouldn’t be turning over detention camps to Donald Trump,” he said. Read more about More Than 500 Central American Families Freed from Detention after Court Ruling

May 26, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Fighting Family Detention

In 2014, the Obama administration revived the controversial practice of "family detention": incarcerating undocumented female immigrants along with their children. The families have not been convicted of any crime, but are held while they await immigration proceedings. Austin-based civil-rights organization Grassroots Leadership has been fighting back since then, calling on the government to close the for-profit "baby jails." Read more about Fighting Family Detention

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

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