Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jul 13, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Moms Describe Anguish in Letters From Inside the Hutto Detention Facility

From the inside of T. Don Hutto deten­tion facility in Taylor, nearly two dozen women are pleading to be reunited with their children in letters that describe the pain, helplessness, and trauma they and their children are feeling. The facility northeast of Austin houses at least 35 asylum-seeking women who were subjected to the family separation policy. In letters compiled by advocacy group Grassroots Leadershipand translated from Spanish, several women say officials lied to them about when they would see their children again, a maneuver to usher them to detention centers. Several women describe poor conditions at various facilities in Texas as they were being shuffled around: One says a guard threatened her with an "electric shock" and another, who is HIV-positive, says the facility withheld medicine from her.

At Hutto, eight of the 35 asylum-seeking women have been released on bond, but only one has been reunited with her children, as of press time. "Other women are still very upset. I think seeing a few women released is giving a little bit of hope, but it's mostly a feeling of desperation," says Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Moms Describe Anguish in Letters From Inside the Hutto Detention Facility

Jul 13, 2018
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Boingboing

A stunning amount of red tape is keeping detainee families from reuniting

Mario knows where his daughter is—they’re both in El Paso, Texas—but he’s not allowed to see her. Before they have the opportunity to permanently come back together as a family once again, the U.S. government’s got a ton of hoops that they want Mario to jump through. The common thread: he needs to prove that he’s his daughter’s father. Last month, Mario and his legal representative were working to get his passport back from the FBI, as it had been taken from him when he was taken into custody at the border. This week, he’s waiting to be fingerprinted. That each step of the process to get his daughter back is being handled by a different government organization only serves to slow things down. Similar stories are playing out with other families as well. Claudia Muñoz, is the immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group that opposes for-profit immigrant detention centers. From what she told the Texas Tribune’s Julián Aguilar, the level of red tape that detainees are having to cut through in order to get back their kids is at a level where one has to start to wonder whether the government actually wants families to be reunited. Hmmmm… Read more about A stunning amount of red tape is keeping detainee families from reuniting

Jul 13, 2018
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Texas Observer

‘Recipe for Disaster’: New Family Detention Center Could Open in South Texas

Trump’s desire to jail thousands of immigrant families for months at a time has rekindled an economic romance between a tiny South Texas county and a British security megafirm.

But family detention itself has long been the focus of controversy. Immigrants have described horrific conditions at for-profit lockups, and human rights organizations have condemned family detention as traumatizing, especially to children — hardly a humanitarian alternative to separations. 

“It’s trading one system of abuse of children for another,” said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin group that fights private prisons. “And the Trump administration’s plan is indefinite detention, meaning parents and children could be detained for years.” Read more about ‘Recipe for Disaster’: New Family Detention Center Could Open in South Texas

Jul 12, 2018
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Los Angeles Times

What it took to reunite one immigrant family separated under U.S. 'zero tolerance' policy

Reina Isabella, who asked to be identified only by her first and middle name, had not seen her daughter Diana in 40 days.

When she was returned to the Border Patrol processing center, officials told her Diana had been taken away.

They wouldn’t say where, or let her phone her daughter, said Reina, who was moved to the T. Don Hutto detention center more than 300 miles north near Austin.

There she met staff from Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which helped her as she applied for asylum based on her fear of returning to El Salvador. Read more about What it took to reunite one immigrant family separated under U.S. 'zero tolerance' policy

Jul 11, 2018
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KVEO

Mother And Child Finally Reunited In Brownsville

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - After 40 days apart, a mother and her child are finally reunited in Brownsville. 

Grassroots Leadership, an organization that advocates for undocumented immigrants, recorded the moment when the mother and child embraced in a vehicle outside a Southwest Key facility. We're told the mother came to Brownsville this morning after being released from the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas and was waiting for six hours to be reunited with her child.  Read more about Mother And Child Finally Reunited In Brownsville

Jul 10, 2018
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The Los Angeles Times

Some migrant children are reunited with parents as Trump administration misses court deadline

Janet, 46, and her 15-year-old daughter Jenny were detained crossing the Rio Grande on a smuggler’s raft in late May and separated from each other. Janet was released Monday with a notice to appear in court but has been unable to be with her daughter, who remains at a shelter in San Benito, Texas.

“So much time has passed. I want to take her with me. We’ll see if they give me the chance,” she said. Officials have told the volunteers helping her, with the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, that in order to be reunited, she would have to clear a rigorous screening process, including fingerprinting and background checks. Read more about Some migrant children are reunited with parents as Trump administration misses court deadline

Jul 10, 2018
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Nonprofit QUarterly

Austin, Texas: If We Can’t Be a Sanctuary City, How about a Freedom City?

When the Texas legislature passed SB4, effectively outlawing sanctuary cities in the state, Austin did not give in. Instead, advocacy groups banded together and passed two resolutions that make Austin a “freedom city,” one that not only refuses to target immigrants but actively protects them from harmful policies and deportation.

Resolution 73 calls for the elimination of “discretionary arrests,” or arrests made in cases when a citation could be issued instead, such as marijuana possession. Resolution 74 ensures that immigrants are aware of their rights when being questioned by the police.

United We Dream and two Austin-based advocacy nonprofits—Workers Defense Project and Grassroots Leadership—have been organizing on this issue since 2016. In May of 2017, they led a protest against SB4, known as the “show me your papers” law, which allows police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest. Read more about Austin, Texas: If We Can’t Be a Sanctuary City, How about a Freedom City?

Jul 8, 2018
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KXAN

Activists push for end to ICE despite fears of political harm to Dems

Calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a rocky road between activists who want deportations to stop and Democratic officials who want to see fellow Democrats elected.

Some Texas Democratic leaders say campaigning on one issue is a sure way they will lose this November Election. Immigration activists are pushing them to do it anyway.

Cristina Parker with Grassroots Leadership is calling for eliminating the agency as well. She thinks thousands of officers looking for people to deport is too drastic, since living in America without legal status is a civil violation, not a criminal offense.

"We're talking about people's families. We're talking about the people who live next door to you. The idea of someone out there hunting them down is terrifying," said Parker. Read more about Activists push for end to ICE despite fears of political harm to Dems

Jul 8, 2018
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Episcopal News Service

Episcopalians gather in public witness outside immigrant detention center

A thousand Episcopalians, at least two for every one female incarcerated at the Hutto Detention Center in rural Texas, stood under the blistering sun July 8 in public witness to the actions of the U.S. government in its enforcement of immigration policies that have separated families over the last couple of months and have led to roundups of migrants and deportations.

An ad hoc planning team lead by the Rev. Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, and the Megan Castellan, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca, New York, organized the prayer service in partnership with Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit organization that works for a more just society by challenging the for-profit prison system, mass incarceration and deportation and criminalization of migrants. Read more about Episcopalians gather in public witness outside immigrant detention center

Jul 7, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Detained immigrants describe treatment, anguish in letters

In a letter recently made public to shed light on the lives of detained immigrants, an asylum-seeking mother held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor laments the monthlong separation from her 12-year-old son.

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that sends volunteers to visit women in the Taylor facility, obtained the letters, translated them from Spanish and published them online to offer a glimpse into life in detention. The accounts detail the women’s desire to reunite with their children and the treatment they allege they have received while in custody.

Grassroots Leadership spokeswoman Cristina Parker said the organization seeks to be “the eyes and ears” for those detained in the all-women facility.

“We want to make sure that we get out the stories of women who are detained,” Parker said. “We were seeing a big group of mothers coming in who’ve been separated.” Read more about Detained immigrants describe treatment, anguish in letters

Jul 6, 2018
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Rewire.News

#FamiliesBelongTogether—in Detention? The Administration Seems to Think So.

What Is the Flores Settlement?

Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE in 2003, there was Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). In the 1980s, attorneys filed several lawsuits on behalf of detained unaccompanied minors, including a 1985 class action lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a 15-year-old Salvadoran girl named Jenny Lisette Flores. The suit challenged INS procedures for detaining, treating, and releasing immigrant children.

“The fight for Flores to be followed has been a long one, but what we’re seeing now is an explicit challenge to Flores and the law of the land that governs the way that children can be detained,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of the Austin, Texas-based immigrant rights organization Grassroots Leadership. “This is part of a larger attack on the legal protections vulnerable people have in the immigration system, including children, asylum seekers, and victims of domestic violence and gang violence. When it comes to challenging Flores, I think we can accurately say that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions doesn’t care about immigrant children.” Read more about #FamiliesBelongTogether—in Detention? The Administration Seems to Think So.

Jul 6, 2018
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Texas Observer

Despite Protests, Willacy County Forges Ahead with Resurrection of Notorious Immigrant Detention Center

County Commissioner Eliberto Guerra also told the Observer he wasn’t worried about another riot because, unlike in 2015, the facility would be holding civil immigrant detainees instead of immigrants serving criminal sentences.

Guerra emphasized the need for the prison guard jobs in Raymondville. Willacy County, population 22,000, has a poverty rate of 38 percent. He added that the county stands to earn as much as $930,000 a year in administrative fees from the contract, plus additional taxes.

But critics weren’t convinced. Norma Herrera, criminal justice organizer for the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the commissioners during public comment that MTC had already proven itself unable to provide “sustainable jobs.” During its nine years in Willacy County, MTC was effectively shut down on two occasions for alleged mismanagement. Read more about Despite Protests, Willacy County Forges Ahead with Resurrection of Notorious Immigrant Detention Center

Jul 5, 2018
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Carbonated.TV

In Letters, Immigrant Mothers Beg: ‘Return Our Children’

Immigrant mothers whose children were forcefully taken from them at the border are begging for help. And the non-profit civil rights organization Grassroots Leadership is now amplifying their calls for mercy by publishing their letters.

When President Donald Trump’s attorney general announced the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, separating families who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, a great outcry pushed Trump to later change his tune. He eventually signed an executive order in what appeared to be an attempt to stop the separation policy. Still, 2,053 children had already been forcefully ripped apart from their parents, and only 538 have been reunited so far.

As attorneys and volunteers from Grassroots Leadership try to help these mothers and children, reporters published some of the letters written by these women. Since many involve mothers who are asking for asylum, not all women were identified. Read more about In Letters, Immigrant Mothers Beg: ‘Return Our Children’

Jul 4, 2018
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CNN

'They treated us as though we were animals': Letters from inside an immigration detention facility

"They treated us so horribly, as though we were animals," she wrote in the letter, in which she called herself "anonimo," anonymous.

The account came via Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that describes itself as "a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization" that fights to "end prison profiteering, mass incarceration, and deportation." The group, which is circulating a petition to reunite separated families, posted the letter on its website on June 25. Four days later, the group posted several more accounts from women who had been separated from their children. 

Grassroots Leadership volunteers met with the women in T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, organizer Bethany N. Carson told CNN. Those volunteers spoke to the women about writing the letters and "helped them figure out how to get the letters out," she said in an email. 

"They were written to tell their experience publicly to ask for help in being released from detention and reunited with their children," Carson said. Read more about 'They treated us as though we were animals': Letters from inside an immigration detention facility

Jul 4, 2018
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Bustle

These Letters From Migrant Women In Detention Centers Are Gut-Wrenching To Read

In often gut-wrenching narratives, detained migrant women are speaking out about the heartache caused by the Trump administration's policy of separating families apprehended at the border. Letters from more than a dozen migrant womencurrently being held in immigration detention centers are being made public by the nonprofit human rights organization Grassroots Leadership. Written by women detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, the letters give readers a glimpse into life inside an immigration detention facility and the anguish and distress that plagues a mother torn away from her child.

Grassroots Leadership has recently published a total of 18 letters — some addressed to Grassroots Leadership organizers and others addressed to the women's children — which were written by 16 migrant women currently being detained in Texas. According to the nonprofit, the motivation behind each letter varied; some were attempts to shine a light on the conditions inside detention centers, others were simply desperate please for help.

"They were written to tell their experience publicly, to ask for help in being released from detention, and reunited with their children," Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher and organizer for Grassroots Leadership, told CNN. Read more about These Letters From Migrant Women In Detention Centers Are Gut-Wrenching To Read

Jul 3, 2018
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Quartz

These child abuses shut down Obama’s family detention policy. Trump is resurrecting it.

Detention ≠ child wellbeing

Family detention is incompatible with child welfare, immigrant advocates say. “The idea of having a place where children are in prison… that could never be made in such a way that would be appropriate,” said Cristina Parker, a spokeswoman for Grassroots Leadership, a group that fought against the Obama administration’s family detention policy. Read more about These child abuses shut down Obama’s family detention policy. Trump is resurrecting it.

Jul 3, 2018
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The Herald

Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment

Last week, the Los Angeles Times asked volunteers and attorneys visiting detained immigrant parents in Texas to convey written questions. More than a dozen mothers at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, 30 miles north of Austin, responded. Volunteers from the local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership shared their letters with The Times, identifying the women by first name because some of their asylum claims are still pending.

Over the weekend, mothers at Hutto — many of whom have applied for asylum — told volunteers from Grassroots Leadership that they had been notified by immigration officials to prepare for transfer to a temporary detention center at Fort Bliss Army post outside El Paso for reunification with their children and deportation.

Despite concerns about the possibility of being deported, in their notes to their children, the mothers tried to stay positive. Read more about Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment

Jul 2, 2018
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Los Angeles Times

'We beg you to help us': Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment and share fears about their children

Last week, The Times asked volunteers and attorneys visiting detained immigrant parents in Texas to convey written questions. More than a dozen mothers at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, 30 miles north of Austin, responded. Volunteers from local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership shared their letters with The Times, identifying the women by first name because some of their asylum claims are still pending.

Over the weekend, mothers at Hutto — many of whom have applied for asylum — told volunteers from Grassroots Leadership that they had been notified by immigration officials to prepare for transfer to a temporary detention center at Fort Bliss Army post outside El Paso for reunification with their children and deportation.

Despite concerns about the possibility of being deported, in their notes to their children, the mothers tried to stay positive.

“I miss you a lot, I love you and we will be together soon,” Noyma wrote to her son. “I don’t want you to be sad.” Read more about 'We beg you to help us': Immigrant women in detention describe their treatment and share fears about their children

Jul 2, 2018
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Southside Pride

Legacy of Hope

Last week on Wednesday I got an email that gave me hope. It showed what people who have compassion and goodness—and just plain human decency—can do when they get organized. The email came from Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, and was forwarded by the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) here in Minneapolis. County commissioners in the Texas county of Williamson voted 4-1 to end their contract with the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center. Formerly detained women, advocates, members of the faith community and Williamson County residents in the Shut Down Hutto Coalition had put public pressure on the Williamson County Commissioners Court for months in order to achieve this step forward. Read more about Legacy of Hope

Jul 2, 2018
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Los Angeles Times

'I love you so much, my child. ... I'm sending you hugs'

The nonprofit Grassroots Leadership collected letters from mothers who were separated from their children at the U.S. border and provided English translations. The Austin, Texas-based nonprofit asked that the women's last names and identifying information be redacted. In some cases, women asked that their first names also be redacted. Read more about 'I love you so much, my child. ... I'm sending you hugs'

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