Grassroots Leadership Blog

Guadalupe's Story: Detention and Deportation are Deadly Systems

Altar of remembrance in the amphitheater of Austin City Hall built for Día de Muertos

On this year's Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), we joined with members of the Detention Watch Network remembering the victims of the U.S. detention and deportation systems. We invite you to read this story of Guadalupe, an immigrant whose story is made up of different real life experiences, most of them lived by immigrants in Austin.  As you read, we invite you to remember the people who lose their lives everyday at the hands of our cruel system. [node:read-more:link]

¿Qué demonios está pasando dentro del centro de detención de Hutto?

Una carta proveniente del controversial centro de detención informa sobre nuevos casos de abuso sexual y  represalias en contra de las mujeres detenidas en el centro de inmigrantes cerca de Austin. El centro de detención T. Don Hutto, que encarcela a mujeres que buscan asilo, ha sido el centro de escándalos sobre abusos sexuales en el pasado. Un ex guardia incluso fue encarcelado por múltiples ataques.

Actualmente, una carta enviada por L.M. (las iniciales de la mujer) desde el interior del centro de detención Hutto describe las experiencias de agresión sexual y represalias de ella y otras mujeres. Ella también incluye los nombres de los guardias responsables de estos actos.

La instalación en Taylor, Texas, es operada para el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) por la compañía privada de prisiones conocida comúnmente como Corrections Corporation of America o CCA (que prefiere ser llamada por su nueva identidad corporativa "CoreCivic" para ocultar su tres décadas de larga historia). Los guardias en la instalación son empleados de la compañía de prisiones privadas.

La carta describe un patrón de agresión sexual que L.M. ha sufrido desde el mes de Junio. Ella escribe que una guardia femenina la forzó a realizar actos sexuales en contra de su voluntad. "Me acosaba, me decía palabras amenazantes y me obligaba a tener relaciones no deseadas con ella, lo que yo no quería, pero tenía que hacer lo que ella quería", describió. "Ella buscó y aprovechó cada momento que pudo para tocar mis pechos o mis piernas, ella  sabía dónde y cuándo hacerlo, no recuerdo las fechas exactas porque paso en muchas ocasiones. Ella trabaja en el área de recreación y lo que hizo conmigo lo hizo con otras residentes. [node:read-more:link]

What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

A letter from inside a controversial detention center contains new reports of sexual assault and retaliation against women detained in an immigrant detention center near Austin. The T. Don Hutto detention center, which imprisons asylum-seeking women, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before.  One former guard was even incarcerated for multiple assaults.

Now, a letter sent by L.M. (the woman’s initials) from inside the Hutto detention center describes her and others’ experiences of sexual assault and retaliation and names two guards as perpetrators. The facility in Taylor, Texas, is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the private prison company commonly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, (which prefers to be called by its new corporate identity “CoreCivic” to obscure their three-decades long history). Guards at the facility are employees of the private prison company.

The letter describes a pattern of sexual assault that L.M. has endured since June. She writes that a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will. “She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her, which I did not want, but I had to do what she wanted,” she described. “She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.” [node:read-more:link]

ICE caught lying — again — about their tactics and immigration raids in Austin

Sulma Franco speaks out in front of an ICE office in San Antonio on September 9. Community members from Austin, San Marcos, and San Antonio were there to demand that ICE reveal their plans (show their papers) for a planned “Operation Mega” raid.

The deceptive tactics of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dominated headlines in early October. Following multiple nation-wide raids that terrorized the community, immigrant leaders and advocates demanded information that uncovered the agency’s many lies. ICE claimed to be conducting “routine operations,” in Austin and elsewhere. That was a lie.  ICE targeted Austin with widespread and devastating raids in early February as “punishment” on the community for Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policies at the Travis County Jail.  The raids intentionally terrorized the community, separated families and led to the deportation of residents.

While the raids were underway, ICE was waging a dishonest public relations campaign to publicize alleged “egregious” crimes in order to bolster Trump’s fear-mongering rhetoric about immigrants. [node:read-more:link]

Did you know formerly incarcerated people fought back (and won) in Texas? You should

After long battles in both the Texas Capitol and Austin City Council, formerly incarcerated people and their allies won a major victory for Fair Chance Hiring here in 2017. We celebrate this victory as a landmark event for the people who have been dehumanized by incarceration to advocate for their rights and to be seen and hired by employers for who they are.

The Fair Chance movement is a nationwide campaign to end employment discrimination in the hiring process, and to restore civil rights in our society. The Fair Chance process requires employers to consider candidates on their merit prior to asking about criminal convictions, moving the background check to the end of the hiring process. This ordinance is the only one of its kind in the South, and took effect in Austin on April 4, 2016.

Legal employment discrimination against individuals with an arrest and/or conviction history is far reaching, and disproportionately harms the poor and communities of color. In Texas, despite making up only 12.5% of the population, African Americans account for nearly 35% of individuals locked up in Texas prisons, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Gainful employment is one of the most critical steps to prevent recidivism. [node:read-more:link]

Don’t believe anyone who tells you crime rates call for more policing and jailing

Chris Harris at a press conference demanding an end to the meet and confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association on August 8, 2017.

The FBI has released its annual report on crime data in the U.S. for the year 2016 and the primary findings include an overall decline in crime for the 15th year in a row, a decline in property crime for the 14th consecutive year, but an increase in the violent crime rate nationally for the second straight year. In response, we must support continued decarceration efforts and reject any calls to return to the insidious policies that lead to mass incarceration and over-policing, which overwhelmingly prey on people of color and contradict a growing body of evidence that decarceration and less policing make us safer.

Despite the uptick in violent crime since 2014, we are still in the midst of a remarkable long-term decline in both violent and property crime at the national level. A deeper dive into the numbers from 2016 once again show violence, particularly homicides, heavily concentrated in a few neighborhoods in some of the biggest major cities. Preliminary analysis of the 2017 crime stats shows that violent crime will decrease once again, signaling that we are not at the beginning of an upward swing.

The current downward trend in national crime rates has coincided, since 2007, with concerted efforts by most states to reduce prison populations. Nationally, the crime and incarceration rate fell together from 2008 to 2014. From 2010 to 2015, the 10 states that cut imprisonment the most saw crime fall almost twice as much as the 10 states with the most growth in imprisonment. As the author of a major new review of incarceration studies found, “...the cost-benefit case for decarceration is a no-brainer: all benefit and no cost.” [node:read-more:link]

One month campaign update for Alirio Gámez in Sanctuary in Austin

"Me siento muy contento y agradecido por toda la gente que me está apoyando mucho. Sinceramente les digo que no puedo regresar a mi país, porque el momento que regreso, estoy en riesgo de perder mi vida. Esta petición de nuestra campaña es importante para parar mi deportación." - Alirio Gámez, Oct. 3, 2017

We can not accept any DACA deal that includes more detention and deportation

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, speaking at the University Leadership Initiative press conference on September 5 to respond to news that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session announced the end of the DACA program.

I remain heartened by the defiant response of our community here in Austin to the ending of DACA. We’ve been standing with University Leadership Initiative, with United We Dream, and with undocumented students who have DACA and who don’t have DACA, for years. We’re outraged by the actions of bullies like Donald Trump, Ken Paxton, Jeff Sessions, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick who have tried to terrorize these communities for months now. [node:read-more:link]

We welcome Norma Itzel Salas to the Grassroots Leadership team

Grassroots Leadership is pleased to welcome Norma Itzel Salas as our new Immigration Social Work and Advocacy Intern. Itzel is a current student at St. Edward’s University finishing her last semester this December with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. 

Itzel has volunteered around Austin with different organizations such as Casa Marianella, has spoken to Senator Eddie Lucio about how to advocate for immigrant rights, is now part of our Grassroots Leadership team! She has a passion for immigration law and policy.  [node:read-more:link]