licensing

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

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

Dec 10, 2015
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Texas Observer

Experts, Activists Challenge Detention Child Care Licenses

Dozens of activists gathered for a public hearing and press conference in Austin on Wednesday, hoping to block family detention centers from becoming licensed child care facilities.

One woman, who was held in a South Texas detention center for 11 months, told reporters that she and her son fled their home country of Guatemala in 2014, hoping to secure asylum in the United States. Upon their arrival, Hilda — who asked that their last name not be used — and 9-year-old Ivan were placed in the Karnes County Residential Center, one of the two federal family detention centers currently housing an estimated 2,000 migrant women and children in Texas.

During their internment at Karnes, Hilda said, her son did not get proper medical care when he was sick, and Hilda watched as other children grew thin and often fainted, because of the poor quality of the food. She described a sterile, prison-like environment, where guards would only bring out toys and blankets for children when federal officials would visit the facility.

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In September, DFPS began trying to keep the detention facilities open to house women and children by creating a new child care licensing category for family detention centers. But Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that has fought for the closure of family detention centers since 2006, filed suit against DFPS in order to block the licensure, and a Travis County district court halted the state’s efforts in late November. Instead, ruled Judge Karin Crump, the state would have to complete the normal administrative process required when creating new child care licensing rules and hold a public hearing.

That hearing took place Wednesday over the course of three hours at DFPS headquarters, where activists called the agency’s attempt to secure child care licenses for detention centers a way to “legitimize the detention of children,” which would perpetuate the traumatic and emotional impact of the violence and persecution migrant families experienced in their home countries. Read more about Experts, Activists Challenge Detention Child Care Licenses

Dec 9, 2015
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The San Antonio Express News

Immigrant advocates fight effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

AUSTIN - Advocates for immigrants and children are fighting a proposal to allow federal detention centers to be licensed by the state as residential child-care facilities, saying Texas shouldn’t lend legitimacy to the operation. Read more about Immigrant advocates fight effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

Dec 10, 2015
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Houston Press

Experts Urge Texas Not to License Immigration Lockups As "Child Care" Centers

Child welfare experts, immigrant rights advocates, former immigrant detainees and even a woman born behind barbed wire in a Japanese internment camp are urging Texas not to license federal immigration lockups as “child care” centers.

Officials with the Texas Department of Family Services heard some three hours of testimony Wednesday from more than 40 witnesses deeply troubled by the agency’s plan to create a whole new child care licensing category for two facilities that primarily detain asylum-seeking women and children. The compounds, built in the tiny, geographically isolated South Texas towns of Karnes and Dilley, are run by the same private prison behemoths that have seen profits soar with the rise in immigration enforcement and detention.

Such “family residential centers,” as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials call them, have come under fire not just by advocates but also by the courts. This summer, a federal judge in California ruled that the family lockups violate a longstanding legal settlement designed to keep the feds from ever again holding immigrant children in prison-like conditions. As the feds scrambled to comply with the judge’s ruling, Texas came in with the assist: state child protection officials would call it an “emergency,” fast-track the process of creating a whole new category for family detention centers and potentially license the facilities without even giving the public opportunity to vet or comment on the plan.

Immigrant rights advocates were appalled that Texas would try to save the distasteful practice of family detention. Child welfare experts, who contend the type of family detention employed by ICE is damaging to child development, were floored by the plan, saying Texas was lowering its child care standards to meet those of ICE.

Late last month, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, a state district judged ruled no such “emergency” existed and that the state couldn’t bypass the normal process. DFPS was forced to hold a public comment period. Read more about Experts Urge Texas Not to License Immigration Lockups As "Child Care" Centers

Judge prohibits Texas from licensing family detention centers as childcare facilities

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership today won a temporary injunction in its suit to stop the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from licensing family detention centers in Karnes and Dilley as childcare facilities under an emergency rule.  The emergency rule actually eliminated minimum child safety standards applicable to all childcare facilities in Texas.   Read more about Judge prohibits Texas from licensing family detention centers as childcare facilities

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