Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jun 29, 2018
The Press Herald

Private prison operators could cash in on ‘zero tolerance’

The biggest private prison operators, which have poured money into Republican coffers, stand to make a windfall from President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that has pushed thousands of undocumented immigrants into detention.

“If we have moral panic around certain issues, like drugs, or immigration, then we have more people getting locked up,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots executive director. “Apprehensions at the southern border are at 15-year lows, but the number of people being criminally prosecuted has spiked dramatically.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 28, 2018

Local Governments Cut Contracts With ICE Over Immigrant Policies

Cities around the country are responding to President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy by canceling what The New York Times reports can be lucrative contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide housing facilities and services for detainees.

In one major victory for immigrant rights activists, commissioners in conservative Williamson County, Texas, voted earlier this week to cut ties with a 500-bed facility owned by CoreCivic, which housed mothers who had been separated from their children. Sofia Casini, an organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership, told the Times that while the group had been fighting against the facility for months, children torn from their families “really touched a different kind of community nerve.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 28, 2018
The Nation

Another Way to Keep Families Together: Join the New Sanctuary Movement

1. Find Your Community. It’s important to remember that you probably don’t need to start from scratch. Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance there’s already an organization involved in the immigrant-rights or sanctuary movement nearby.

As you’re making your connections, keep in mind that “it doesn’t have to be physical sanctuary” that you offer, as Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based multi-pronged advocacy network, explained. You can hold Know Your Rights workshops, phone-bank members of Congress to pressure them to oppose anti-immigrant legislation and pass legislation that protects immigrants, or hold educational events to learn about the US immigration system and why people are migrating or fleeing. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018

Texas' Williamson County Will Close An Immigrant Women's Prison — But Says That's Not Enough

There’s some good news when it comes to immigration matters in the Lone Star State. On Tuesday, KXAN reported Williamson County in Texas voted to close a prison for immigrant women — an infamous ICE-affiliated detention facility that has previously been accused of overlooking sexual abuse.

Last year, immigration activist group Grassroots Leadership accused the Williamson County Sheriff's Office of failing to adequately look into detainee Laura Monterrosa's accusations of sexual violence. Monterrosa alleged that a T. Don Hutto prison guard had been sexually assaulting her since June 2017. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018

Texas county ends immigrant detention contract amid Trump family separation controversy

Texas county has voted to end its contract with a privately run immigrant detention facility as reverberations from President Donald Trump’s controversial policy to separate immigrant families at the border have made their way through American communities and, now, potentially impacted the bottom line of private prison corporations profiting from the incarceration of immigrants.

“This is very much in response to everything that has been going on,” Cristina Parker, the communications director for the immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said of the Williamson County decision to cut ties with ICE, which are scheduled to take effect on 31 January. 

Ms Parker noted that protests at the facility, which opened in 2006, have not been uncommon.

“I think with everything that has been hitting the news lately – I think it has all sort of crescendoed today into the county feeling that they had to get out of the contract,” Ms Parker said. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018
Teen Vogue

A Texas County Is Ending Its Contract With ICE

According to NBC affiliate KXAN, commissioners of Williamson County, located approximately 40 miles north of capital city Austin, voted 4-1 on Tuesday to end its Intergovernmental Services Agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding its operations at T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. The contract will expire on January 31, 2019.

More than just the Trump administration’s policy and the anonymously penned letter led to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center’s demise: Immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership communications director Cristina Parker told The Independent that several detainees have alleged that they were sexually abused by the center’s guards. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018
San Antonio Current

Texas Suburb Votes to End Contract with Immigration Detention Center

A conservative Texas suburb severed ties with a 500-bed immigration detention center on Tuesday, after years of immigrant-rights groups fighting to shut the facility down. 

The Tuesday vote comes amid claims that the T. Don Hutto Residential Center outside of Austin houses mothers who have been separated from their children by ICE. Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit civil and human rights organization, claims that the center houses almost 500 women, about 40 being mothers who have not had contact with their children since their detainment. 

Sofia Casini, a campaign organizer for Grassroots Leadership, said that the issue "really touched a different kind of community nerve."

"We told them there are mothers inside Hutto," she told the Associated Press. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018

Texas County That’s Had Enough Of ICE’s Inhumanity Cancels DHS' Contract For Detention Center Holding 500 Women

Amid the rollercoaster ride known as the Trump administration zero tolerance immigration policy, a Texas county has decided to end its contract with ICE, which has an immigrant detention center in the community. 

According to The Independent, Williamson County commissioners voted on Tuesday to terminate the county's contract with ICE, which heads the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. The facility, which opened in 2006, holds about 500 women. About 45 of those women are mothers who were separated from their children by ICE agents. 

“This is very much in response to everything that has been going on,” said Cristina Parker, the communications director for the immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018

How to help on the ground in Texas and California

Here is a list of six groups that are looking for donations and qualified volunteers:

3)  Grassroots Leadership is a southwestern organization, based in Austin, that is supporting mothers separated from their children every step of the way, including paying to bond them out of detention so they can reunite with their families, facilitating calls with their children and loved ones, and fighting their criminal charges. They are also organizing many of the women who have been released but have not yet been reunited with their children as promised; these women are willing to lead the fight to win deportation cases and reunite with their children. They also work on ending for profit prisons which is at the root of this as Penney Kome details for You can donate to their Community Deportation Defense & Bond Fund here[node:read-more:link]

Jun 27, 2018
The Texas Observer

New 1,000-Bed ICE Lockup Set to Open on Site of Notorious ‘Tent City’ in South Texas

In March 2017, Willacy County dropped its lawsuit against MTC after the company agreed to both buy the correctional facility and pay off the county’s debt. MTC also agreed to pay the county $3 per inmate per day if the facility were ever to open again, according to the Valley Morning Star.

MTC’s purchase of the facility last year was part of a “private prison rush,” according to Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights private prisons. “[Companies] bought empty or under-capacity facilities in an effort to cash in on the Trump gold rush,” Libal said. “Now, we’re starting to see that horrible reality play out.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
Round Rock Patch

Williamson County Ends Contract With Immigration Detention Site

Williamson County commissioners voted on Tuesday to terminate their lucrative contract with the T. Don Hutto detention center in the nearby town of Taylor — a site that houses immigrant women —by next year.

"This is an important step forward in the fight for justice at Hutto and a victory for all who have raised their voices," Bethany Carson, immigration organizer and researcher at Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, said. The nonprofit has long led the charge in urging commissioners to end their cooperation with the detention site. "We thank all the members of the Shut Down Hutto coalition for their work to make this happen," Carson added. "However, there is still much to do. We must first fight to ensure that every woman at Hutto, including all of the moms who have had their kids taken from them, are released from the facility immediately."

The move also comes a week after Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant rights advocacy group, reacted to news of Trump's reversal of his own family separation policy initiated as part of a "zero tolerance" immigration crackdown — a decision made via executive order after Trump declared he would be unable to reverse the policy through that method. Officials at the nonprofit were unsatisfied with the reversal, suggesting it merely transforms a mass family separation crisis into a mass family incarceration one.

"Together in a cage is not better than separate cages," Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said at the time. "This order is going to lead to more and potentially longer family detention. Locking families in detention camps with a proven history of abuse to be traumatized together instead of traumatized apart is a sick way to supposedly 'keep families together.'"

"The decision does not immediately close the facility, but rather gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement until January to renegotiate a possible agreement," Grassroots Leadership officials said in a press advisory. "At least 35 mothers who have had their kids taken from them at the border are being held the facility, and some are at imminent risk of deportation." [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
FOX 7 Austin

WilCo Commissioners Court vote to terminate detention center agreement

A large group gathered outside of the Williamson County courthouse Tuesday morning before the commissioners court meeting.

It was more of a pre-celebration rally than a protest; anticipation of a vote regarding the T. Don Hutto Immigration Detention Center. Activists like Claudia Munoz have spent years trying to shut it down.

“We know that about 40 women who were separated from their children at the border recently are now being held at Hutto, and I think as we learn more and more about everything that happens at Hutto, from sexual abuse to mothers been separated, community members don’t want to see this prison existing in Taylor anymore,” said Munoz who is with a group called Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
Austin American-Statesman

Williamson commissioners to end contract with detention center

The Williamson County commissioners have voted to terminate the county’s contracts with ICE and CoreCivic at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor on Jan. 31, 2019.

“Thank you for voting; you did the right thing legally, you did the right thing morally,” said Sofia Casini, the coordinator of the visitation program that the nonprofit Grassroots Advocacy group has been running to visit women at the detention center. Casinia said the detention center needed to be shut down.

The move by the commissioners comes a week after President Donald Trump ordered a halt to the recent practice of separating families entering the United States illegally. The Austin-based civil and human rights nonprofit group Grassroots Leadership said the women detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center have not been told about when or if they will be reunited with their children.

Representatives from GrassRoots Leadership and other community members asked the county commissioners this spring to address issues at the detention center. The group also asked Sheriff Robert Chody to investigate sexual assault allegations at the facility. Chody has said he referred the issue to the FBI. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
My Champlain Valley

Texas suburb ends contract with immigrant detention center

A conservative Texas suburb voted Tuesday to sever ties with a 500-bed immigration detention center that activists say is currently housing some mothers who don't know the whereabouts of their children.

Sofia Casini, a campaign organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership that has worked with mothers in the facility, said they had been pressing commissioners for months but said the current crisis "really touched a different kind of community nerve."

"We told them there are mothers inside Hutto," she said. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
Brit + Co

Decoding the Homeland Security Plan for Reuniting Migrant Families

Sofia Casini was just leaving the T. Don Hutto detention facility in central Texas — where she had posted bond for a detained migrant mom — when she spoke to us about the government’s promise to reunite migrant families.

“Based on what I’ve heard from mothers, the government had no intention to reunite families in the first place,” Sofia Casini tells us.

Casini is a campaign organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit that fights against for-profit prisons and detention centers. She tells Brit + Co that there is “desperation” among mothers at Hutto who have been separated from their children.

Casini says that it’s true some families have been reunited, but that it’s important to understand the circumstances.

She explains, for example, that the mom she posted bond for on Tuesday morning will be reunited with her children, who are already with her husband. The mother and her family have lawyers and advocates working on their behalf, which is necessary given how complicated and unclear processes are at this time. But not all families will have the exact right circumstances or resources to be reunited the way things are currently operating. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
Austin-American Statesman

Williamson County votes to end involvement with detention center

The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to terminate the county’s involvement with the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor effective Jan. 31, 2019.

“Thank you for voting. You did the right thing legally; you did the right thing morally,” Sofia Casini, a coordinator for the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership group, told commissioners after the vote.

Casini said the detention center needs to be shut down. Grassroots Leadership has been supporting women at the detention center, including Salvadoran asylum-seeker Laura Monterrosa, who was released in March after she said she had been sexually assaulted by a female guard at the center.

At least 35 mothers who have had their children taken from them at the border are being held at T. Don Hutto, and some are at imminent risk of deportation, according to Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018

Texas County Terminates Immigrant Detention Center Contract With ICE, For-Profit Prison

In a crowded county courthouse filled with immigrant rights advocates, Williamson County commissioners on Tuesday voted to end the county’s contracts with the federal government and a for-profit prison company operating a notorious immigration detention facility.  

Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, told Rewire.News that she was concerned by the commissioners’ decision to not immediately terminate the contract. “The fact of the matter is, they made a choice to keep it open until January 31,” Casini said. “They have a 90 day notice, and they could end the contract any time. That’s an extra three months of keeping it open at their discretion. That’s suspect.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
News 4 San Antonio

WilCo terminates contract with ICE detention center in Taylor

The Williamson County Commissioners Court has voted 4-1 to terminate their agreement with ICE and CoreCivic at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor.

"I think it's a testament that people will vote will vote with their conscience, that people locally have power to do what's right," said Claudia Munoz, immigration director for Grassroots Leadership. "We knew this was going to be a long fight. This was a first step for us, and it's a very important first step." [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018

Williamson County terminates contract with ICE, T. Don Hutto facility

Williamson County commissioners decided to end their Intergovernmental Services Agreement (IGSA) with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its operations at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. 

The federal detention center in Taylor, which opened in 2006, only houses women detained by ICE. Activists from Grassroots Leadership said the facility has about 500 women being held there right now, and approximately 40 of the detainees are mothers recently separated from their children. 

Claudia Munoz, who works as the immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership, said the commissioners' decision came as a pleasant surprise, but she said there is much more work to do.

"We know that this doesn't mean [the women] get released right away, so we will have to fight for that," Munoz said. "We have six months to make sure that these women are not just transferred to another detention center." 

Munoz and her group organized a rally and march Tuesday morning ahead of the county's vote, where dozens of people held signs calling for the closure of the facility. [node:read-more:link]

Jun 26, 2018
The Austin Chronicle

Williamson County Commissioners Court Ends Hutto Contract

Williamson County Commissioners voted 4-1 today to end its contract with ICE through CoreCivic to run the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor. Under the approved terms, the contract, established in 2010, will now expire by Jan. 31, 2019.

Prior to the vote, Grassroots Leadership – at the forefront of efforts to encourage the court to end the contract – led a “Jericho” protest and march, borrowing Biblical inspiration to “tear down the walls” of the detention center. The nonprofit’s Sofia Casini reminded commissioners that they could end the contract even sooner, within 90 days as opposed to the six months they approved, and that doing so would shift “moral and legal liability” from the court. The extra time also gives the feds a wide cushion to find another government funding avenue.

“This detention center is not needed in any form. It does not need to exist,” said Casini. “They have friends and family that want them and can take them in. … Please shut it down.” [node:read-more:link]