Immigrant Family Detention Center Granted Child-Care License

May 3, 2016
ABC News

One of the nation's largest detention centers for families caught crossing the southern U.S. border has received a temporary residential child-care license, amid discussions over whether the federal government will keep using such facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services granted the six-month license last week to the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said Tuesday. The private prison firm that runs the facility for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, GEO Group Inc., had requested it after a federal judge said last year that kids couldn't stay in the centers because they weren't approved to care for children.

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Immigrant advocates criticized the decision to grant the temporary license, citing reports of inadequate medical care and other issues as reasons why such facilities shouldn't get licenses. One group, Grassroots Leadership, said Tuesday that it and two mothers detained at Texas facilities with their children had sued in Austin to stop the licensing.

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"Anyone who has been to either of these facilities understands that they are prison facilities," said Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership. "The real question is, does an agency have the right to license a prison as a child-care facility? We think that the answer is no. They would have to go to the Legislature to get that approval."