Grassroots Leadership In The News

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Oct 15, 2014
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Austin American-Statesman

Despite criticism, Travis County sheriff stands by deportation program

In a dialogue on October 15th with Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition Executive Director Alejandro Caceres, and Texas Civil Rights Project Staff Attorney Amelia Fischer, Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton again defended his office’s participation in a federal program that helps deport immigrants arrested in Travis County. Read more about Despite criticism, Travis County sheriff stands by deportation program

Oct 13, 2014
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TWC News

Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

From Austin and San Antonio, close to one-hundred activists made the drive to Karnes County this weekend in protest of the more than 500 immigrants incarcerated inside the Karnes County Residential Center.

"When we as a country needed to open our arms and open our doors to people fleeing violence,” Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration projects coordinator, said. “Instead, we locked them up. We're putting them in this prison now."

Part of the group’s message at the weekend rally is directed at the prison's operator, private company Geo Group Incorporated.

"We know that this is a company back here that is making $298 per day, per child," Parker said.

Click here to read the full report prepared by Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

Oct 13, 2014
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Fusion

Undeterred by sex abuse scandal, feds push for more family detention centers

Privatization of any type of jail or prison should be concerning: incarcerations shouldn’t be driven by profits.

Immigration activists have taken a firm stance on this. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a North Carolina-based organization that wants to extricate private businesses from prison industry, said the new incursions into family detention by the Obama administration are both “incredibly shameful and entirely predictable.” After the failure of T. Don Hutto, he believes the government should end the effort to lock up families based on immigration status. “It’s almost mind-boggling that ICE would embark on this kind of detention regime,” he said. Read more about Undeterred by sex abuse scandal, feds push for more family detention centers

Oct 13, 2014
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Time Warner Cable News

Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

From Austin and San Antonio, close to one-hundred activists made the drive to Karnes County this weekend in protest of the more than 500 immigrants incarcerated inside the Karnes County Residential Center. "When we as a country needed to open our arms and open our doors to people fleeing violence,” Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration projects coordinator, said. “Instead, we locked them up. We're putting them in this prison now." 

Part of the group’s message at the weekend rally is directed at the prison's operator, private company Geo Group Incorporated. "We know that this is a company back here that is making $298 per day, per child," Parker said. Read more about Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

Oct 13, 2014
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Texas Public Radio

Songs of Protest and Symbols of Hope, as Protestors Rally at Under-Fire Detention Center

Ringing protest chants and flashy signs greeted security at the Karnes County Residential Center Saturday, southeast of San Antonio, where 60 people gathered in solidarity with immigrant women and children housed inside; immigrants who made it across the U.S. border after fleeing violence in Central America.

The group outside the facility included some children, who also wanted their message, and their voice, heard. Little ones with the group outside the residential center attempted to deliver letters they'd written to the immigrant children on Saturday. But they also met with opposition and their letters were not delivered.

Eva Gray, who lives in Austin, wondered why the families were being denied justice."I’m here because I really want to see an end to deportation in general, the criminalization of those who are not guilty of any sort of crime," she said passionately. "I just want to see children playing and the ability to have their cases heard. They're really being denied all those things." Read more about Songs of Protest and Symbols of Hope, as Protestors Rally at Under-Fire Detention Center

Oct 11, 2014
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KSAT

Protesters gather at Karnes Co. detention center

Organizers referred to the practice as inhumane and believe the Karnes County Residential Center should be closed immediately.

Members of the group also alleged mistreatment of the people being held at the center.

"One of the biggest problems with this facility is that it's run by a private company, and the problem with that is that they aren't answerable to us, the people. They answer to their shareholders," said Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership. "So they have not given us any kind of response or anything, which is exactly why it needs to stop."

Oct 11, 2014
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San Antonio Express-News

Critics frown at ICE jail contracts

Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group that has been critical of ICE's detention policies and outsourcing to the private prison industry, said the reliance on signing deals with local entities rather than with the companies themselves lacks transparency.

“I think the reason they don't put out (requests for proposals), they do these (intergovernmental service agreements) is to avoid scrutiny, to rush through these decisions without the public or the media to scrutinize what they're doing,” Libal said. Read more about Critics frown at ICE jail contracts

Oct 11, 2014
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San Antonio Express-News

Protesters demand closure of Karnes residential facility

Elaine Cohen, who works with Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights to end for-profit incarceration, said she's visited the center. She complained about the practice of housing children in what she said were jail-like conditions while a woman next to her held a bright-orange poster that said “Children need freedom and sunshine to grow.”

“You can paint laughing broccolis and smiling bananas on the walls all you want, but this is still a prison for children,” Cohen said, adding that this is the first of several protests. She noted that a larger detention center is slated to be built in Dilley, between San Antonio and Laredo, and said the group will be vigilant of others. Read more about Protesters demand closure of Karnes residential facility

Oct 11, 2014
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My San Antonio

Protesters demand closure of Karnes residential facility

A caravan full of protesters used songs, posters and theatrical demonstrations Saturday outside the Karnes County Residential Center to denounce the use of for-profit facilities to detain immigrants seeking asylum. Numbering close to 100, protesters came by bus and cars from Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston to vent their frustrations about the detention center, operated under contract by GEO Group Inc. for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The rally aimed to bring attention to the plight of hundreds of Central American women and children who are being housed at the shelter while they wait for the federal government to decide their fates. Elaine Cohen, who works with Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights to end for-profit incarceration, said she's visited the center. She complained about the practice of housing children in what she said were jail-like conditions while a woman next to her held a bright-orange poster that said “Children need freedom and sunshine to grow.”

  Read more about Protesters demand closure of Karnes residential facility

Oct 9, 2014
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¡Ahora Sí!

Nueva protesta contra los centros de detención

Organizaciones pro derechos de los inmigrantes protestarán el sábado 11 frente al centro de detención de familias inmigrantes ubicado en Karnes City, 50 millas al sureste de San Antonio. “Estamos trabajando con gente en el estado de Texas para reunirnos y mandar un fuerte mensaje al presidente Obama, que regresar a una política de detener a familias es absolutamente inapropiado”, dijo Bob Libal, director ejecutivo de la organización Grassroots Leadership en Austin, uno de los organizadores.

La actividad espera convocar a centenares de personas en las instalaciones, quienes exigirán un alto a lo que los grupos de defensa de los inmigrantes indocumentados califican como una ‘‘política vergonzosa’’, aseguró Libal. El dirigente explicó también que un autobus viajará desde Austin el día de la protesta y que más detalles están en http://bit.ly/10pMQkg. Read more about Nueva protesta contra los centros de detención

Oct 9, 2014
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KUT

Report: 'Systemic' Problems in Groups Overseeing Central American Migrants

report released yesterday documents what it calls "systemic" problems in the two private prison companies the federal government hires to house undocumented Central American mothers and their children.

The report alleges detainees are being sexually harassed by guards in the recently-opened Karnes County Residential Center, which is run by the GEO Group, and expresses concern about a forthcoming center opening in Dilley next month, which will be run by CCA.

Austin-based research and advocacy group Grassroots Leadership authored the report, and Cristina Parker, a project coordinator with the group, says private prison contractors like GEO and CCA are often responsible for deaths of those within under care. Since the 1980s, she says, they have settled lawsuits claiming that people die under these companies’ care, while other lawsuits have dealt with sexual and physical abuse. What surprises Parker is that these companies continue getting new contracts.

“Private prison companies are not accountable to anyone,” Parker says. “They are accountable to their shareholders – not to us the people – not even to Congress, not even to the Department of Homeland Security.”

Oct 8, 2014
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Democracy Now!

Migrant Women, Children Allege Harsh Conditions, Sexual Assault at For-Profit Texas Immigration Jail

Broadcasting from San Antonio, we look at a new family detention center just south of the city that holds more than 500 immigrant women and their children as they await deportation. The for-profit Karnes County Residential Center is owned by the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the United States. Many women imprisoned at the Karnes facility have accused guards of sexually assaulting them. A federal complaint filed last week says guards are promising the women help with their immigration cases in return for sexual favors. Many of the detainees came to the United States seeking asylum from violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. But the Obama administration says it is detaining them in order to discourage more migrants from coming. We hear from one of the facility’s few detainees to be released since a wave of migrants arrived in August, an El Salvador national who came with her 7-year-old daughter, who suffers from brain cancer. We also speak ... Cristina Parker, the immigration projects coordinator for Grassroots Leadership and co-author of their new report, "For-Profit Family Detention: Meet the Private Prison Corporations Making Millions by Locking Up Refugee Families." Read more about Migrant Women, Children Allege Harsh Conditions, Sexual Assault at For-Profit Texas Immigration Jail

Oct 1, 2014
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San Antonio Current

Mass Detention of Migrant Women and Children Continues to Expand

The Dilley facility will be owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, the same public-private prison company that operated the T. Don Hutto Residential Center north of Austin. After the American Civil Liberties Union and the University of Texas Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic uncovered cases of abuse and neglect, the government stopped detaining families at Hutto in 2009.

“The [Obama] administration has learned no lessons from what was one of the most shameful parts of the Bush administration’s detention legacy, and the fact that they’ve returned to that policy speaks volumes on where their priorities lie,” Bob Libal, director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, said. “I think that this is a giant step backwards, in terms of codifying a practice of locking up asylum-seeking families at for-profit prisons. It’s shameful.” Read more about Mass Detention of Migrant Women and Children Continues to Expand

Sep 23, 2014
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Texas Observer

Feds Set to Open Massive New Family Detention Center in November

Locking up children and their parents has an ugly history in Texas. The Obama administration pulled families out of the CCA-run T. Don Hutto detention center in 2009 after mounting evidence of civil-rights abuses. Families and children, many of whom are fleeing violence and human rights abuses, simply shouldn’t be held in jail-like conditions, advocates have said. They suggest alternatives, including truly residential facilities run by charities or faith-based groups.

Immigrant rights groups reacted with outrage today at the ICE announcement.

“Given the shameful history of family detention at Hutto, it’s horrifying that ICE would turn back to Corrections Corporation of America to operate what would be by far the nation’s largest family detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership. “While little kids and their families will suffer in remote private prisons, far away from legal or social services, these multi-billion dollar private prison companies stand to make enormous profits.” Read more about Feds Set to Open Massive New Family Detention Center in November

Sep 23, 2014
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TruthOut

Call to Close "Deplorable" Private Detention Center for Immigrants Made, as Expansion Planned

Immigrant justice groups and human rights groups are demanding the Obama administration close a recently converted immigrant detention center in Karnes, Texas. The center incarcerates 530 children and families and is owned and operated by the private prison corporation GEO Group.

The call to close the Karnes detention center comes as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials recently confirmed plans to build a new immigrant-family detention center in Dilley, Texas, that is expected to hold 2,400 refugees arriving from Central America.

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"While families are suffering this mass-family detention policy, it has become very good for business for private prison corporations like the GEO Group," said Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which works to end for-profit incarceration.

Libal said the company's expected annual revenue for the Karnes detention center jumped from around $15 million to $26 million after the company converted the center to detain children and families. Read more about Call to Close "Deplorable" Private Detention Center for Immigrants Made, as Expansion Planned

Sep 20, 2014
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Austin American-Statesman

Human rights groups decry family detention centers

Human rights groups last week denounced the detention of immigrant families at two recently opened facilities in Texas and New Mexico, saying incarceration exacerbates the trauma of mothers and children seeking asylum and blocks refugees from access to lawyers.  ...

Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, said the facilities as they stand now seem to be operating like “deportation mills.”

“Family detention is back and at a scale that we could not have even imagined during the Bush administration,” he told the Statesman. “It is a giant step backward.” Read more about Human rights groups decry family detention centers

Sep 18, 2014
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Bloomberg Businessweek

To Solve Prison Crowding, Norway Goes Dutch

According to a report released last fall by the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership, at least 10,500 state prisoners were held last year outside the state where they were convicted. Hawaii and Vermont each send inmates more than 2,000 miles to Arizona, where they’re housed in private prisons run byCorrections Corp. of America (CXW). Read more about To Solve Prison Crowding, Norway Goes Dutch

Sep 18, 2014
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San Antonio Business Journal

Human rights group demanding ICE close South Texas detention facility

Immigrant and human rights advocates from throughout the country called on the Obama administration to immediately close a family detention center in Karnes County, Texas, that is housing illegal immigrants from Central America who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

Grassroots Leadership officials came to their conclusion after touring the living quarters in the detention facility, which they say is deplorable. They also called on U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close it and another detention center in Artesia, N.M., that is housing women and children, and cancel separate plans to open a 2,400-bed complex in Dilley, Texas.

“It is clear that the return of mass immigrant family detention has serious and detrimental impacts on immigrant children and their families,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “The Obama administration should immediately scrap plans for additional family detention beds.” Read more about Human rights group demanding ICE close South Texas detention facility

Sep 15, 2014
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San Antonio Express-News

Questions about ICE contract in Dilley

The proposed center would more than double ICE's capacity to detain family members. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin advocacy group, said it would be the largest ICE detention center in the country.

That CCA is involved is drawing criticism. The company operates the T. Don Hutto Residential Center north of Austin, which until 2009 held families. The center was mired in lawsuits alleging mistreatment of children held there. Read more about Questions about ICE contract in Dilley

Sep 11, 2014
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CBS-DFW

Federal Officials Propose Texas Immigration Lockup

The plan is being decried by advocacy groups, who point to the fraught history of a past Texas family immigration lockup, the T. Don Hutto detention center, northeast of Austin. The ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic sued in 2007 over incarcerating families there, alleging inhumane conditions.

Authorities in 2009 removed all families and sent them to the Pennsylvania facility, and Hutto now only houses women.

“The lesson from Hutto is that detention is inappropriate for kids and their families and I think that viewpoint has already been proven,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that opposes the use of for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers.

Libal also expressed concern about locating the new immigration center in isolated Dilley, on Interstate 35 about 85 miles north of the border city of Laredo.

“When you put detention centers in remote areas, far away from legal services or the eyes of community members or proper oversight, it makes it more likely that bad things are going to happen,” Libal said. Read more about Federal Officials Propose Texas Immigration Lockup

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