Grassroots Leadership In The News

Sep 11, 2014

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. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 10, 2014

U.S. Government Okays Huge For-Profit Immigrant Detention Center

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a group that opposes for-profit prisons, told the Observer: “Given the shameful history of family detention at Hutto, it’s beyond troubling that ICE would turn back to Corrections Corporation of America to operate what would be by far the nation’s largest family detention center.”

“While little kids and their families will suffer in this remote private prison, far away from legal or social services, this multi-billion-dollar private prison company stands to make enormous profits,” Libal added. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 10, 2014
Fort Worth Weekly

Hire CCA, See No Evil

"Take the Corrections Corporation of America, for instance, the largest private prison corporation in the world. According to the Texas Observer, CCA probably will get the green light from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate a 2,400-bed family prison that ICE plans to build outside of the South Texas town of Dilley. This is the same CCA that ran a Kentucky prison that was shut down in 2009 because guards were found to be forcingprisoners to trade sex for privileges. It’s the same CCA that ran the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Tyler, where a supervisor went to prison for sexually molesting women detained there. That and a host of other atrocities caused the Obama administration not only to shut down that facility but to end the use of family detention centers altogether.

That policy, however, was reversed in late June, when a new family detention center was opened in Artesia, N.M. According to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security, the reversal came in response to the “influx of families that have recently illegally entered the United States.” In August, a Karnes City, Texas, detention center for men was converted to a family detention center.

So, hey, let’s give the CCA a new prison in Texas to run! You know, one where there will be lots ofvulnerable women and children. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization dedicated to eliminating the for-profit private prison industry, said in a press release, “Kids and their families will suffer while the multi-billion-dollar private prison company stands to make enormous profits.”" [node:read-more:link]

Sep 9, 2014
Texas Observer

Feds Planning Massive Family Detention Center in South Texas

The massive facility would double the existing federal capacity for immigrant families and is certain to anger immigrant advocates who say a for-profit lockup is inappropriate for families, especially young children. They point to the failed experiment with detaining immigrant families at T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center, a CCA-run facility about 45 minutes northeast of Austin. The Obama administration removed families from the former jail in 2009 after numerous allegations of human rights abuses, accounts of children suffering psychological trauma and a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic.

“Given the shameful history of family detention at Hutto, it’s beyond troubling 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 Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes for-profit prisons. “While little kids and their families will suffer in this remote private prison, far away from legal or social services, this multi-billion-dollar private prison company stands to make enormous profits.”

Sep 6, 2014
The Guardian

Huge family detention centre to open in Texas for undocumented migrants

The announcement enraged advocates, who argue that detention is no place for children.

“The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for returning to the policy of mass for-profit detention of immigrant families,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group opposed to for-profit prisons.

Family detention centres operated by private prison companies have a poor track record, especially in Texas. In 2009, federal officials removed all immigrants with children from a 490-bed Texas facility operated by CCA. The facility had been the focus of a damning 2007 report on family detention by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children that concluded detention was wildly inappropriate for children.

“While little kids and their families will suffer in this remote private prison, far away from legal or social services, this multibillion private prison company stands to make enormous profits,” Libal said. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 5, 2014
La Voz de Houston

Inmigración libera a niña salvadoreña para que reciba tratamiento de cáncer

Después de semanas de retraso y gran alboroto por parte de defensores de los inmigrantes, autoridades federales acordaron poner en libertad a una niña salvadoreña de siete años que padece cáncer y a su madre para que la pequeña reciba tratamiento.

Cuando Nayely Bermúdez Beltrán y su madre, Sara Beltrán Rodríguez, huyeron de la violencia imperante en El Salvador y vinieron en julio a Estados Unidos, dijeron de inmediato a oficiales del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza que la niña necesitaba atención médica debido a un tumor cerebral, según dijo Beltrán el miércoles.

La violencia en su país de origen es tan intensa, así como las amenazas a Beltrán y a su hija, que tuvieron que posponer los planes para que Nayely recibiera tratamiento adicional en su patria, según dijo Beltrán al San Antonio Express-News después de ser puestas en libertad en la noche del miércoles.

De la zona fronteriza, madre e hija fueron transferidas al Centro Residencial del Condado de Karnes sin que la niña hubiese recibido ningún tratamiento a pesar de que en el lugar de detención hay personal médico y equipos especiales, y la madre formuló sus peticiones en varias ocasiones.

Aunque a Nayely le ofrecieron quedarse en casa de unos amigos que están legalmente en Estados Unidos, autoridades de inmigración se negaron en un inicio a poner a la niña y a su madre en libertad o fijar una fianza para ambas, según el grupo de activistas Grassroots Leadership, que ayudó a dar a conocer este caso. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 4, 2014
Daily Mail

Seven-year-old Salvadoran girl with brain tumor is released from immigrant detention center so that she can get treatment after uproar

A seven-year-old Salvadoran cancer sufferer has finally been released from an immigrant detention center in Texas so that she can get treatment for her brain tumor after weeks of delays.

Following uproar from advocacy groups, Nayely Bermudez Beltran and her mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, were allowed to leave the Karnes County Residential Center on Wednesday night so that the little girl can undergo treatment next week.

The duo fled violence in El Salvador in July and when they entered the U.S., Beltran immediately told border patrol officers that the girl needed medical attention, the Houston Chronicle reported.

But they were transferred to the center in Karnes County without Nayely undergoing any treatment - and even though they had a place to stay, authorities would not release them or set bail,Grassroots Leadership explained.


One of the doctors, neurologist Dr. Simon Carlson, urged ICE to release the girl, saying that her health could 'take a turn for the worse with little to no forewarning, with devastating outcomes'.

'Urgent care is needed for this child, and she is likely to suffer long term brain damage or worse if left to routine care without urgent specialist intervention,' he said.  

On Wednesday, the agency finally released the pair and they went to a shelter in Austin, according to Texans United for Families, which helped fight for their release.

Photographs taken outside the shelter show the mother and daughter grinning with their lawyer.

'Nayely and Sara just walked out of the Karnes family detention center,' the caption read. 'They are on their way to a warm and welcoming place in Austin and Nayely is going to see a doctor on Tuesday.' [node:read-more:link]

Sep 3, 2014
Houston Chronicle

Feds release 7-year-old immigrant girl with cancer for treatment

After weeks of delay and an uproar from immigrant advocates, federal authorities agreed Wednesday to release a 7-year-old Salvadoran girl with cancer, and her mother, from a detention center in Karnes City so the child can get treatment.

When Nayely Bermudez Beltran and her mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, fled violence in El Salvador and in July came to the United States, they immediately told Customs and Border Protection officers that the girl needed medical attention for a brain tumor, Beltran said Wednesday.

The violence was so severe - and threats constant to Beltran and her daughter - that they had to scrap plans for additional treatment for Nayely in their home country, Beltran told the Express-News shortly after their release.

But mother and daughter were later transferred to the Karnes County Residential Center, without any treatment despite the facility having medical staff and equipment and the mother making repeated requests.

Although Nayely was offered a place to stay with friends who have legal status in the United States, immigration authorities initially declined to release the girl and her mother or set bail, according to advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which helped publicize their case. Meanwhile, Nayely was visibly ill and regularly wetting the bed due to her condition, her mother said.

"We were waiting for a month, and no one would do anything," Beltran said. "I felt anguished. I would pray to God to send me someone for help. He listened to my prayers." [node:read-more:link]

Sep 2, 2014
Think Progress

Private Prison Stocks Soar As Companies Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrants

One ICE official told KUT News that the agency had no choice in picking GEO because they had a contract with the county, which then subcontracted to GEO. Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership said subcontracting is one of the strategies private prison firms use to keep making money despite their negative reputations.

GEO has faced continuous allegations of malfeasance at its facilities, including legal violations and inmate abuse. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. Because the firms are profit-driven, they have an incentive to cut corners on the care of their inmates and detainees to save money. They have also lobbied heavily for policies that serve their interests. [node:read-more:link]

Aug 7, 2014

Groups Want Creation of Family Detention Stopped

Several groups launched a campaign today to stop the creation of immigrant family detention centers.

"This is something that's been announced in the last month, that the Obama Administration is returning to the practice of detaining immigrant and refugee families in mass," says Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

... "We think that putting little kids behind prison walls particularly prison walls operated by a for profit prison corporation is absolutely the wrong thing," says Libal. [node:read-more:link]

Aug 6, 2014
La Voz de Houston

Texanos Unidos por las Familias pide no internar familias indocumentadas en centros de detención

La organización Texanos Unidos por las Familias (TUF, por sus siglas en inglés) inició este miércoles una campaña para pedir al gobierno federal que minimice el número de familias indocumentadas detenidas recientemente en la frontera a las que interna en centros de detención.

Miembros de TUF, que participaron esta mañana en una conferencia de prensa celebrada en Austin, recalcaron que uno de los problemas que implican los centros de detención es que para los detenidos tener acceso a representación legal se complica mucho.

Uno de los centros de detención a los que las autoridades están llevando a algunas de las familias indocumentadas es el que está ubicado en Karnes City, en Texas, concretamente 60 millas al sureste de San Antonio. Otro de los centros de detención de familias indocumentadas está en Artesia (Nuevo México).

“Es un centro (de detención) que está en medio de la nada, es muy remoto y allí no hay servicios legales pro-bono”, comentó sobre el centro de Karnes City Bob Libal, director ejecutivo de Grassroots Leadership, uno de los grupos que forman parte de TUF.

Libal añadió que la mayoría de familias a las que intenta defender la campaña de TUF están formadas por madres e hijos, aunque en algunos casos también hay padres. [node:read-more:link]

Aug 6, 2014

A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

...[An] ICE official said the agency had no choice in picking GEO. The contract, he explained, is not through ICE but through Karnes County.

The view from the Karnes City facility's upper-level residences.
Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Bob Libal says subcontracting is part of the strategy GEO has used to stay in business despite persistent lawsuits. Libal leads Grassroots Leadership – a nonprofit organization that, among other things, researches the shortcomings of for-profit prison corporations.

"Whenever anything goes wrong ICE says, ‘This is not our problem, this is the county's problem,’” Libal says. “But really, you have layers of lack of transparency and lack of accountability that are built into these contracts.”

Libal says GEO is Texas' first choice to run detention centers, prisons and mental health facilities in part because they save the state money by cutting costs.

But he also notes the group is a very generous political contributor at the state and federal levels, and has one of the strongest lobbying teams he’s ever seen. Two members of the company’s board of directors are former members of the George W. Bush administration; Libal says there’s a sort of “buddy-buddy” relationship within GEO's county contract negotiations. [node:read-more:link]

Jul 30, 2014
International Business Times

Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit

... Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization that has campaigned against family detention and the for-profit prison industry, said the government would likely be eager to keep contracting family detention centers to private companies.

“It’s an easy solution for the government because there are private prison corporations that have excess capacity, particularly today, with declining state prison populations,” he said. “And it’s about influence -- private prison corporations are enormously powerful, particularly in immigration.” Libal noted that Julie Myers Wood, former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a member of GEO Group’s board of directors, and that David Venturella, former head of the "Secure Communities" enforcement program, is now a GEO Group senior vice president ....  [node:read-more:link]

Jul 23, 2014
Idaho Statesman

Letter: Private prisons

On July 1, the Idaho Department of Corrections officially took back control of the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) after 14 years of operation under the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). As the Lewiston Tribune put it in their opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman July 7, "... after a long, dark chapter, Idaho has cast aside a profit motive more suited to making widgets or selling hamburgers than to warehousing human beings."

Kicking CCA and the profit-motive in imprisonment out of the ICC is absolutely a step in the right direction. However, we cannot forget Idaho is not completely rid of CCA quite yet. More than 200 Idaho prisoners remain locked up in a for-profit CCA prison in Burlington, Colo. Prisoners, their families and loved ones, and Idaho taxpayers continue to pay the price for the state's failure to prioritize real solutions to prison overcrowding.

Shipping prisoners across state lines to for-profit prisons is not a solution. It is a costly Band-Aid that is ripping families apart and undermining individuals' chances of rehabilitation. It's unsustainable. It's inhumane. It needs to end now.

Holly Kirby, organizer, Grassroots Leadership

Austin, Texas

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Jul 12, 2014

Grassroots Activists Stand Up For Immigrants' Rights

Last month, members from Texans United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the Hutto Visitation Program wrote a joint letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking them to shut down the Harwell Center as a result of what they call limited " medical care, visitation, recreation, dirty uniforms, a lack of access to legal processes and attorneys, and the penal nature of the facility." [node:read-more:link]

Jul 3, 2014
Austin Chronicle

Hamilton Digs In: Won't End 'S-Comm'

"We're very happy the City Council has taken leadership on this issue," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

"Republican sheriffs in Cali­­fornia, Colorado, Kansas, rural Oregon, have said they're not going to violate people's rights and honor ICE detainers," Libal said. "It's very frustrating that the sheriff continues to demonize the immigrant community and perpetuate outright lies about them." [node:read-more:link]

Jun 28, 2014
TWC News

Sheriff: Deportation Program is Federally Mandated

Travis County ranks 11th in the nation when it comes to the number of people deported. A total of 4,741 people have been deported from the county in the last fiveyears.

"I think that really puts him on the wrong side of history," Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership.

Libal said recent court decisions essentially allow jails to ignore requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain inmates. "This is devastating to the immigrant community," he said. "It also wastes taxpayer dollars, and it's illegal." [node:read-more:link]