Welcome Hutto Visitation Intern, Andrea Muraira

Grassroots Leadership is pleased to welcome, Andrea Muraira as our new Hutto Visitation Intern. Andrea will be outreaching to volunteers, supporting all trainings as well as co-facilitating the Spanish language Hutto Visitation trainings.   [node:read-more:link]

Jul 9, 2015
¡Ahora Sí!

Visitas alivian y llevan esperanza a indocumentadas detenidas

"Durante los últimos cinco años el programa de visitas Hutto Visitation Program ha buscado aliviar en parte el sufrimiento que viven las detenidas, al conectarlas con voluntarios de Austin.

La iniciativa es ejecutada por Grassroots Leadership, una organización que apoya causas relacionadas con justicia social, inmigración y activismo ciudadano, y les ofrecen amistad y les llevan esperanza mientras están confinadas.

Moncada vivía ansiosa, frustrada y, como muchas de las más de 500 mujeres que alberga el centro de detención T. Don Hutto, no sabía por cuánto tiempo debía pasar encerrada por su delito: entrar a Estados Unidos ilegalmente para no morir a manos del padre de sus hijos, aseguró. Su situación mejoró cuando conoció a Rocío Villalobos, una joven voluntaria del programa.

Para mujeres como Moncada, conocer a las voluntarias les da a las detenidas fuerza para seguir luchando por sus casos de inmigración y conseguir así un estatus legal, según sus organizadores y participantes." [node:read-more:link]

Dec 18, 2014
WBAI 99.5 FM

Advocates discuss new family detention center in Dilley, Texas

Grassroots Leadership's Cristina Parker tells WBAI host Donald Anthonyson about the new privately-run family detention center in Dilley, Texas and abuses coming out of the Karnes County Residential Center, a GEO-run detention center that began detaining families this summer. Christina Fialho and Christina Mansfield of CIVIC talk about their work establishing immigrant vistitation programs, the injustices of the legal system immigrants must navigate, and influences of private prison lobbying on mass immigrant detention. Interview begins at minute 13:00. [node:read-more:link]

Call for Involvement of Faith Communities in Detention Visitation Programs

Visiting Immigrant women in Detention in Taylor, Texas, came into my life at a particular time.  The first year of my return to Austin, after more than 4 years teaching in Xalapa, Mexico was rough.  Finally I turned 62 and began to receive a small income from sociasecurity– as well as land a studio apartment in a Foundations Communities property. Within weeks of moving into my own place and regaining some stability in my life, I attended an Orientation to Visitation.  Geoff Valdes, who was an old friend from when we were part of Accion Zapatista, had suggested the Hutto Visitation Program to me when I told him that I wanted to get involved with something meaningful – where I could use my Spanish.

In November of 2011 I made my first visit to Hutto, with a woman who had been visiting a woman from Guatemala for a month or so already.  After talking to me on a couple of visits, the Guatemalan woman told me that she knew a woman from Honduras who really needed a visit. That is when I met the first woman I would know from Honduras.  Then there was another woman who wanted a visitor; she was from El Salvador.  I have continued to visit, woman after woman, as ICE continues in its relentless seize and capture mission of Central American refugees.  I have never been to Central America – though some astute students of Colonial and Imperialist history of the region might allow me to count three months in Chiapas as Central America.


Building bridges in Dallas

At the end of May I was part of a small delegation that went to Dallas to attend the opening festivities of a newly formed group, the Center for Theological Activism.  At the dinner I met a number of progressive clergy who expressed real interest in learning more about the groups we represented.  Alejandro Caceres and Susana Pimiento were there from the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition and I was there to talk about immigrant detention and the Hutto Visitation Program.  Two of the clergy that seemed to be the most interested in the issue of detention were a Methodist Youth Minister, Jason Redick and the Rev. Jim Mitulski, the senior Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope.

Those of you who participated in the recent action in Waco at the Jack Harwell Center heard Jason Redick’s moving opening prayer.  About the same time as our action in Waco, I received an invitation from Rev. Mitulski’s congregation to be on a panel at the Cathedral of Hope.  They were holding a symposium titled ImagiNATION Immigration and the key speaker was the journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.   I spoke about my experiences visiting at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.  You can read my remarks here.

It was the first time I had been to the Cathedral of Hope, which is known as the largest LGBT congregation in Dallas, and probably in all of Texas.  The congregation was also racially diverse and included many families and children as well.  In fact, I believe the Cathedral of Hope may be the most integrated, inclusive religious congregation I have had the opportunity to visit.


International Women's Day 2014 in Taylor, Texas; a small caravan of Hutto Visitation Program volunteers went to Hutto

Guest blogger Elaine Cohen shares her experience at the Hutto Detention Center, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, on International Women's Day. 

March 8 was International Women's Day!  In the past I have gone to many a march or gathering to celebrate.  This year I am happy to say I  visited at Hutto with 5 others from the program: Arielle, Arantxa and Sharon.  Our friend, Stephanie, at American Gateways also gave us information about 17 more women asking for visitors, all of whom are from Honduras or El Salvador.

Immigration Detention Visitation Programs are Spreading Around Texas!

Guest Blogger, Elaine Cohen, attended a Hutto Visitation Program (HVP) orientation in October of 2011 and began visiting immigration detention centers in Texas almost immediately.  Since then she has visited with over a dozen women from Central America and Africa and provided invaluable support and coordination for Grassroots Leadership's collaboration with CIVIC (Community Initiatives to Visit Immigrants in Confinement) to visit three Texas cities to talk about immigration detention visitation.  Her degree in Religion and Women's Studies comes together in this work at the juncture of Human Rights and Social Justice.   

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director, Bob Libal and CIVIC's Co-Executive Director, Christina Mansfield, planned and carried out a three city tour to Houston, Austin and San Antonio on October 10, 11 and 12th.  The purpose of the tour was to generate interest in starting visitation programs in the Houston and San Antonio areas.  Bob and Christina's combined knowledge covered an ample spectrum on the private prison industry's involvement in immigrant detention centers and the actual conditions within these facilities across the country.


New Training Videos for Detention Visitation Volunteers

CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement) and the Jesuit Refugee Service have teamed up to produce a series of videos to train volunteers for immigrant detention visitation programs.  Our own Rocio Villalobos, who coordinates the Austin-based Hutto Visitation Program along with Grassroots Leadership, is featured in their video on recruitment.  The full press release from CIVIC is below, but first some words of wisdom from Rocio:  

Volunteer Recruitment and Screening for Detention Visitation Programs from Jesuit Refugee Service | USA on Vimeo.



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