Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jun 22, 2016
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Equal Times

Undocumented immigrant detainees: the (passive) merchandise of a lucrative business

The detention centres “are like prisons, with heavy metal doors and fences,” explained Parker. “You can’t enter them without authorisation. Some of the detainees have access to legal advice, but it is not something that’s guaranteed.”

With only five per cent of the world population, the United States holds over 20 per cent of the world’s prison population, in local, state and federal prisons. With over 2.3 million people convicted, imprisoned or detained, and the trend towards privatising prisons, it is an attractive business. The detention centres for undocumented immigrants, although a small slice of the cake, also generate profits.

And with the growth in the flow of migrants and refugees this decade, the sector is doing well. Read more about Undocumented immigrant detainees: the (passive) merchandise of a lucrative business

Jun 15, 2016
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The Guardian

Texas officials vote against British firm's plans for immigration detention center

An abrupt about-face has thwarted efforts by the British security firm Serco to open its first family detention center in Texas. Local officials unanimously voted this week against “entering contract agreements” with the company after at least a month of negotiations.

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Serco has promised 200 local jobs if the center is opened. But human rights advocates say the opportunity may not last if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president, since she has promised to end the practice of detaining families.

“This box they’re trying to sell you may have zero value in a few months because we might get a president who might say that family detention is over,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, during last week’s meeting with residents. Read more about Texas officials vote against British firm's plans for immigration detention center

Jun 14, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Jim Wells County deals blow to ICE detention center strategy

The Obama administration’s efforts to comply with a judge’s order over the treatment of immigrant children suffered a setback Monday when Jim Wells County commissioners rejected a proposed holding center for immigrant families.

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“We don't think that there is any way that women and children can be kept in a government facility,” said Alejandro Caceres, the immigration organizer at the Austin advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Jim Wells County deals blow to ICE detention center strategy

Jun 14, 2016
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AlterNet

This Foreign Firm Wants to Break Into the U.S. 'Market' of Detaining Refugee Women and Children

"The answer to the family detention crisis is not contracting for new detention camps, regardless of where they are or who operates them. The answer is ending the practice of locking up kids and their moms once and for all,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, in a press statement released Tuesday. “The Obama administration has a choice—will its legacy be ending family detention or codifying the largest trend in locking up families in this country since Japanese internment." Read more about This Foreign Firm Wants to Break Into the U.S. 'Market' of Detaining Refugee Women and Children

Jun 9, 2016
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KRIS TV

Activist groups oppose plans to build Immigration detention center

JIM WELLS COUNTY - The Jim Wells County officials are looking at the possibility of building a detention center that would house immigrant families awaiting asylum. The proposed facility would be located at the abandoned nursing home right outside San Diego. That is where Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a private company called SERCO hope to build a family immigration center. It would house anywhere from 400 to 500 mothers with their children. Read more about Activist groups oppose plans to build Immigration detention center

Jun 9, 2016
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Huffington Post

Obama Administration Wants Another Family Immigrant Detention Center

The Obama administration is exploring creating another family immigrant detention center in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security and private contractor Serco, Inc. are in talks with local authorities to create a family immigrant detention center in Southern Texas, even as state and federal authorities struggle with litigation over two similar institutions in the state.

Efforts to create another family detention center in Jim Wells County would likely spark backlash among immigrant rights groups and raises the possibility of more legal wrangling over the Obama administration’s controversial policy of locking up predominantly Central American mothers and their children, many of whom arrive here seeking asylum or other humanitarian relief. Read more about Obama Administration Wants Another Family Immigrant Detention Center

Jun 1, 2016
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Reporte Austin

Acciones Contra Las Redadas De ICE

La vida de un inmigrante sin documentos puede cambiar con un toque a la puerta, un toque a la puerte de un agente de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas o ICE por sus siglas en Inglés, puede ser lo que cambie toda nuestras vida para siempre. Para muchos inmigrantes ese toque a la puerta a sido como un golpe al corazon, sabiendo que ese dia puede sera el ultimo dia que van a ver a su familia. Sabiendo que ese agente tiene el poder de levantar a toda la familia, esposo, esposa, niños, niñas o a cualquier persona que encuentren en su casa que ellos piensen que no tengan documentos para llevarlos a un centro de detención y después deportarlos. Read more about Acciones Contra Las Redadas De ICE

May 26, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Fighting Family Detention

In 2014, the Obama administration revived the controversial practice of "family detention": incarcerating undocumented female immigrants along with their children. The families have not been convicted of any crime, but are held while they await immigration proceedings. Austin-based civil-rights organization Grassroots Leadership has been fighting back since then, calling on the government to close the for-profit "baby jails." Read more about Fighting Family Detention

May 25, 2016
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San Antonio Current

Ill-gotten Gains, Gender Equality in Government, Seeing Green

The times in Texas are good for the for-profit prison industry.

The GEO Group, which operates the immigrant detention facility in Karnes County, and Corrections Corp. of America, which runs a similar facility in Dilley, Texas, are rolling in cash.

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Grassroots Leadership Immigration Programs Director Cristina Parker said that money is made off of the suffering of mothers and children who came to the U.S. seeking refuge.

"It's sickening to hear CCA and GEO brag about their profitable quarter to shareholders," Parker said. Read more about Ill-gotten Gains, Gender Equality in Government, Seeing Green

May 24, 2016
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The Establishment

Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

When you’re behind bars, “there’s something psychologically uplifting about knowing someone is coming to visit you,” Jorge Renaud explained.

Renaud is an organizer with Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice who spoke with me by phone from Austin, Texas. He told me that unless you’ve been incarcerated, you can’t understand the emotional impact of a visit from a friend or loved one. His voice vibrated with emotion as he recalled those desperately needed visits, his tone expressing more than words could say. Read more about Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

May 20, 2016
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Texas Public Radio

Clinton Ignores Immigration Group's Request For Meeting During Austin Visit

While Clinton was here for a private meeting with Austin Democratic campaign donors, that didn’t stop members of the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership from trying to have a sit down with Clinton to discuss her promises to close the Karnes City and Dilley family immigration detention centers.  Though not allowed inside, members of the group snuck in and began singing inside the hotel lobby.

Cristina Parker is the immigration program director at Grassroots Leadership.

“This is a state where family detention is a really huge issue, we have massive family detention centers that hold Central American women and children.  Hillary Clinton said she is against this policy, but we are asking her to use her influence as the powerful person that she is to push the Obama administration to end this now.  She said she’ll end it in November, but these women can’t wait, they are suffering.  I don’t think she can ignore this issue in our state and just raise money and leave," Parker explained. Read more about Clinton Ignores Immigration Group's Request For Meeting During Austin Visit

May 20, 2016
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San Antonio Current

For-profit Prison Companies in Texas Made Big Money Jailing Immigrants so Far This Year

Two private for-profit prison companies operating immigrant detention facilities in Texas reported strong financial gains to shareholders this month.

The GEO Group, which operates the immigrant detention facility in Karnes County, and Corrections Corp. of America, which runs a similar facility in Dilley, Texas, are rolling in cash.

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based organization that seeks to end the for-profit prison industry, reports that GEO Group told shareholders that the 626-bed expansion of the Karnes facility in December 2015 is one of a few reasons why its first quarter revenue for 2016 "increased to approximately $510 million from $427 million a year ago." Read more about For-profit Prison Companies in Texas Made Big Money Jailing Immigrants so Far This Year

May 20, 2016
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KVUE

Hillary Clinton attends Austin fundraiser

A handful of immigrant rights advocates in Austin showed up outside the hotel hoping to press Clinton on detention of undocumented family members.

"She has already said that if she becomes president she would end family detention," said Bethany Carson with Grassroots Leadership. "But we are asking her to act sooner, to call on President Obama to end family detention while he is still president because these families cannot wait." Read more about Hillary Clinton attends Austin fundraiser

May 12, 2016
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ABC News

Texas Court to Hear Challenge on Immigrant Detention Centers

A court hearing Friday over the licensing of immigrant detention centers in Texas is likely to delve into the unresolved question of whether children illegally crossing the southern U. S. border can be held for long periods at facilities that federal officials say are vital to prepare for another wave of immigrant families this summer.

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Austin-based Grassroots Leadership wants a temporary injunction that would delay the granting of a child care facility license to the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. The other Texas detention center, the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, was granted a temporary license in April.

"This is part of a broader effort, both federal litigation and a lot of advocacy, calling on the administration to not make the largest trend in locking up families since Japanese internment part of its immigration legacy," said Bob Libal, Grassroots' executive director. Read more about Texas Court to Hear Challenge on Immigrant Detention Centers

May 10, 2016
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Texas Observer

‘She Lives in Fear,’ Not in El Salvador, but in Texas Detention

After surviving multiple rapes and death threats from MS-13 gang members, a 35-year-old Salvadoran mother gathered up her 12-year-old daughter and fled to the United States in hopes of seeking asylum. But when they arrived in South Texas in March, she says, they faced a new nightmare — an immigrant detention center where they experienced sexual abuse at the hands of another woman housed in the same room.

The mother, referred to as E.G.S. in court documents, and her daughter are detained in the Karnes County Residential Center, a 500-bed federal immigration detention facility run by the private prison company GEO Group, Inc. Between Karnes and a second facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining approximately 1,800 immigrant mothers and children in Texas.

But in order to comply with a federal order that children be housed in licensed residential centers, Texas must categorize these detention facilities as state child care providers. After a controversial start — Texas made its first attempts to license the facilities behind closed doors without public hearings last fall — the state issued its first child care license to the prison company that manages the Karnes facility in late April.

Now, E.G.S and another mother, along with the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, have sued to stop the state from issuing further licenses. An Austin judge has temporarily halted the licensing until a court hearing Friday. Read more about ‘She Lives in Fear,’ Not in El Salvador, but in Texas Detention

May 10, 2016
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ThinkProgress

Private Prison CEOs ‘Pleased’ Their Earnings Soared From Keeping Immigrant Kids In Detention

During separate conference calls to talk about earnings reports, two of the country’s largest for-profit private prisons indicated that they saw their profits soar from holding immigrant mothers and children in detention centers across the country.

Revenues increased during the first quarter of 2016 for both the Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, executives told shareholders on conference calls.

CCA saw a revenue of $447.4 million, a 5 percent increase from last year’s first quarter. The company’s press release attributed much of that increase to a federal contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

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“It’s sickening to hear CCA and GEO brag about their profitable quarter to shareholders,” Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said in a press release. “That money is made off the suffering of mothers and children who came to the U.S. for refuge.” Read more about Private Prison CEOs ‘Pleased’ Their Earnings Soared From Keeping Immigrant Kids In Detention

May 10, 2016
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RT

For-profit prison earnings increase due to surge in immigrant family detention centers

Two of the country’s largest for-profit prison companies reported to shareholders that their earnings have swelled thanks to detention centers holding immigrant families.

The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private corrections firm in the United States, reported revenue of $447.4 million in the first quarter of 2016, a 5 percent increase from the same quarter a year prior, the company reported in a statement.

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“It’s sickening to hear CCA and GEO brag about their profitable quarter to shareholders,” Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at the immigrant advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement.“That money is made off the suffering of mothers and children who came to the US for refuge.” Read more about For-profit prison earnings increase due to surge in immigrant family detention centers

May 6, 2016
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MintPress News

Texas Incarcerates Immigrant Children In Private Prisons They Call ‘Day Care Centers’

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit that opposes for-profit prisons, sued Texas over the regulations. Arguing there was no “emergency” allowing the state to waive basic human rights, the nonprofit won a temporary injunction in November. This forced the state to accept public input on the changes. An open records request showed the state received over 5,000 pages of overwhelmingly negative letters and testimony against the proposed rules.

But the state pressed on anyway, and the new rules went into effect on Feb. 12.

In response, immigration reform activists organized a “pop-up day care center” outside the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Today, I’m joined by Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership. I asked him to tell me more about what inspired this unique direct action and what kind of reaction they received. Read more about Texas Incarcerates Immigrant Children In Private Prisons They Call ‘Day Care Centers’

May 6, 2016
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Houston Press

The State Foster Care System Has a License to Be Terrible at Licensing

A group called Grassroots Leadership has rallied against the Department's licensure of immigration detention centers earlier this week. The group's executive director says, "By all reasonable measures, family detention camps are prisons. They are not childcare facilities." (Grassroots on Wednesday successfully petitioned a Travis County District Court for a temporary restraining order blocking the Department from licensing another detention center. A judge will hear arguments May 13).

But given how the Department conducts business with residential treatment centers, it might be a stretch to call them childcare facilities as well. Read more about The State Foster Care System Has a License to Be Terrible at Licensing

May 6, 2016
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The Monitor

COMMENTARY: Remembering all moms, including detained immigrants and their children, this Mother's Day

Libal’s group also has asked a judge to strike down a temporary residential child care license that was issued to the 500-bed Karnes facility, where I toured.

Sure that center has wall drawings by children and child-friendly posters but I would not in any way liken it to a real childcare center, places where some working moms drop their toddlers during the day, give center staff instructions on the type of care they’d like for their youth and the freedom to pick them up and leave with them every evening.

These detained women can’t even eat lunch with their children, much less leave without a judge’s order.

And so as we go into this Mother’s Day weekend and our nation celebrates the blessings of mothers, may we also remember these little ones whose mothers are locked up, unable to cook for their own children or even tell them what to eat. And may our nation, and our state, be guided by our hearts to do better by them. Read more about COMMENTARY: Remembering all moms, including detained immigrants and their children, this Mother's Day

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