Family Detention

In 2009, Grassroots Leadership ran a successful campaign to end family detention at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor Texas. When the Obama administration announced that it would stop detaining families at Hutto, only 100 family detention beds remained at a small facility in Pennsylvania. However, after the wave of Central American families and children seeking refuge at our border in the summer of 2014, the administration reversed its decision, opening facilities at Artesia, New Mexico; Karnes, Texas, and Dilley, Texas - all run by private prison corporations. While Artesia closed at the end of last year, the number of family detention beds has skyrocketed and is expected to reach over 3,000 by this May. Grassroots Leadership is once again working to end the inhumane policy of family detention.

Facts About Family Detention

Find out more about what family detention is, what the conditions are like, who opposes it, and more on our regularly-updated resource page: Facts about Family Detention

 

Related Posts

Dec 6, 2016
/
Texas Observor

More Than 500 Central American Families Freed from Detention after Court Ruling

An immigrant shelter and a Mennonite church in San Antonio are hosting hundreds of Central American women and children released unexpectedly over the weekend from two detention centers in South Texas.

Volunteers are scrambling to house all the families, who now need to secure bus and airplane tickets so they can reunite with relatives in the United States. Some advocates suspect the mass release of immigrants is due to a court ruling last Friday that prohibits Texas from licensing immigration jails as child care facilities.

...

Despite comments from RAICES saying the releases over the weekend are unprecedented, ICE said in a prepared statement that it was “scheduled as part of normal operations and not in response to the court ruling.”

...

“For whatever reason, the releases are a good thing,” said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group that was a plaintiff in the lawsuit settled last Friday. Grassroots Leadership, along with detained Central American women and children, sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) after it granted a child care license to private prison corporation Geo Group to fill the detention center in Karnes with women and children from Central America who were seeking asylum.

...

Libal said the state of Texas rubber-stamped the immigrant jails to placate the federal government, allowing for substandard child care regulations such as housing eight unrelated people in the same room.

But after last Friday’s court ruling, the state can no longer provide the certification, which means the two family immigrant detention facilities are out of compliance with federal law. Libal said he and many others would like to see the child detention facilities close for good. But it’s still unclear whether there’s any penalty for being out of compliance, or whether ICE will stop detaining children anytime soon.

The state is already appealing Friday’s ruling, Libal said. “The Obama administration shouldn’t be turning over detention camps to Donald Trump,” he said. Read more about More Than 500 Central American Families Freed from Detention after Court Ruling

Dec 6, 2016
/
Fox News Latino

460 undocumented immigrants released from Texas family detention centers

More than 400 women and children were released from two Texas immigration detention centers over the weekend, after they were found to be holding families in violation of Texas law.

...

They came from the only two detention centers in the state – the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley – that have been licensed to hold children, but a state District Court judge, Karin Crump, on Friday invalidated those licenses.

...

Attorney General Ken Paxton's office filed an appeal in an effort to make stand the Department of Family and Protective Services license of the facilities as residential child-care centers. The licenses are needed because a federal judge ruled last year the centers would have to eventually release the immigrant children if they didn't get them.

Judge Crump ruled the department cannot issue the licenses without offering an explanation for her decision, saying only that “runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code and is, therefore, invalid.”

...

The company that operates the Karnes City center, GEO Group, said in a statement to the San Antonio Express-News that the lawsuit brought by Grassroots Leadership is without merit. Read more about 460 undocumented immigrants released from Texas family detention centers

Dec 5, 2016
/
The Monitor

Family detention centers blocked

An Austin judge blocked the licensing of two family immigrant detention centers in Texas on Friday following a recommendation from a Department of Homeland Security committee to stop detaining families.

Judge Karin Crump of the 250th state District Court invalidated the Texas regulation that allowed for the licensure of the nation’s two largest family detention centers located in Karnes and Dilley.

Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid representing the plaintiffs in the case, argued that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is only granted authority to regulate child care facilities and that family jails are not childcare facilities.

...

The plaintiffs also said that family detention is harmful to children and that licensing the facilities under lowered standards would only increase the harm suffered by children.

A similar argument was made recently by the DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers. In an October report released a few weeks ago, the committee recommended DHS, “simply avoid detaining families.”

“DHS’s immigration enforcement practices should operationalize the presumption that detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families,” the report states, “And that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management, are never in the best interest of children.”

...

One plaintiff testified that her daughter had been spoken to and touched inappropriately by another unrelated detainee sharing their room at the Karnes center, according to a news release from Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based national organization fighting to end private prisons.

Immigration Attorney Jodi Goodwin testified in court that in addition to the damage to detained children’s physical and mental health, attorney Goodwin also testified that detention itself hindered a family’s ability to successfully present their asylum case in court.

The plaintiffs also argued that licensing the detention centers would result in lengthier stays of these families. Read more about Family detention centers blocked

Dec 5, 2016
/
ABC News

Texas Appeals Ruling That Bans License for Detention Centers

The Texas attorney general on Monday appealed a judge's ruling that prevents state officials from issuing child care licenses to two federal detention centers in South Texas holding families that have illegally entered the U.S.

...

State District Judge Karin Crump on Friday ruled the department cannot issue the licenses. Crump's ruling did not offer an explanation for her decision, but she had previously issued an injunction against the licenses from being issued, determining at one point that the state agency had improperly fast-tracked changes to create a path for the facilities to get licensed.

...

The lawsuit that brought Crump's ruling was filed by Austin-based activist group Grassroots Leadership, which contends the facilities are prisons that are inappropriate for family detention and that minimum standards have been lowered to license them. The group's director, Bob Libal, said Monday that it's part of broader legal efforts to have federal officials adhere to a longtime agreement that called for children and their families to be held only for a short time before being released to family, friends or others while their cases are decided.

"Evidence is continuing to mount that not only is the detention immoral but it's also illegal," Libal said. Read more about Texas Appeals Ruling That Bans License for Detention Centers

Dec 5, 2016
/
The Huffington Post

Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling

Hundreds of women and children were released from two family detention centers over the weekend, after a Texas state judge sided with critics who say the facilities more closely resemble jails than child care centers.

The mass releases were a victory for immigrant rights advocates, who argue that it’s unnecessary and inhumane to lock up undocumented mothers and kids seeking asylum in the U.S.

The state lawsuit focused narrowly on emergency rules designed to allow the detention facilities to meet Texas’ child care licensing standards. But the state case arises out of ongoing federal litigation, which has put Immigration and Customs Enforcement on notice that these facilities are not acceptable places to house kids.

“This may not be the end of our legal battles,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which brought the state lawsuit. “But for now, if these facilities want to apply to operate as child care facilities, they have to do it like any other child care facility ― rather than the state designing a rule that fits prisons.”

...

The Karnes and Dilley detention centers would need to make significant changes to qualify as child care facilities under previously established Texas law. One problem is that the centers hold multiple families together in a single unit, meaning children have been housed with unrelated adults ― a generally prohibited practice for child care facilities because of the risk of abuse.

Another key issue is that children’s presence at licensed child care facilities is essentially optional and they can leave. By contrast, kids can’t leave the detention centers at Karnes or Dilley unless ICE or an immigration judge releases them.

Despite the ongoing litigation, ICE extended CoreCivic’s contract to run the Dilley detention center in October.

 
Read more about Hundreds Of Immigrant Moms And Kids Freed From Detention After Texas Court Ruling
Dec 5, 2016
/
The San Antonio Current

Texas Blocked From Licensing Immigration Lockups as Child Care Centers

Texas can't lower its standards in order to license a couple of South Texas immigration lockups run by private prison corporations. 

That's the result of a final judgement issued by a Travis County judge late Friday in a lawsuit triggered by the state's unusual decision to license immigrant detention centers as child care facilities. In her final ruling, Judge Karin Crump said that allowing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to give family detention centers the state stamp of approval "runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code." 

...

Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prisons, filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block state licensing of the centers. Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who represented Grassroots, said that state licensing of detention centers was never about ensuring the welfare of children. “The state’s executives admitted in documents and testimony that DFPS wanted to license these facilities to help the federal government, and not the children," Wesevich, said. "Motive matters and we believe it was the key to the case." 

“The conditions at Karnes and Dilley are equivalent to prisons, not childcare facilities,” said Grassroots director Bob Libal. “We are glad the court heard our concerns about the damage that family detention does to mothers and their children and how lowering standards to issue licenses to these facilities only exacerbates that harm."

Libal also asked that the Obama Administration "end the practice of detaining immigrant families once and for all." Read more about Texas Blocked From Licensing Immigration Lockups as Child Care Centers

Dec 4, 2016
/
My San Antonio

State cannot issue child care licenses for family detention centers, judgment finds

A judge issued a final judgment Friday to prevent the state from issuing a child care license for family detention centers, such as the 2,400-bed immigration detention center in Dilley or a 1,000-bed center in Karnes County, according to the Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

The group sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services along with the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group earlier this year after DFPS issued a child care license for the Karnes County Residential Center. In June, State District Judge Karin Crump issued a temporary injunction against the department.

“During hearings in May and June, Judge Crump heard testimony from mothers detained at the facilities who testified to the prison-like conditions at the facility, and child welfare and faith leaders who argued that children locked up with their mothers in immigrant family detention camps are not safe, physically or mentally,” a press release from Grassroots Leadership read.

... Read more about State cannot issue child care licenses for family detention centers, judgment finds

BREAKING: Texas court blocks licensing of family detention camps as childcare facilities

AUSTIN, Texas — In a major victory for detained asylum seeking mothers and their children, an Austin judge Friday issued a final judgment effectively preventing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing child care licenses to the nation’s two largest family detention centers — the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. Read more about BREAKING: Texas court blocks licensing of family detention camps as childcare facilities

Oct 26, 2016
/
Texas Observor

Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement

A Guatemalan mom and son who have been living in Sanctuary in Austin have finally received a form of deportation relief for the next year. Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan had been living in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for the past 8 months under threat of deportation back to Guatemala. Hilda and her son came to the U.S. in August of 2014 seeking asylum, and spent the next 11 months in the for-profit Karnes Family Residential Facility. Hilda and Ivan were then released from Karnes due to a separate Special Immigrant Juvenile status that Ivan applied for, and because a federal judge had recently ruled against prolonged family detention. 

The two were living at an Austin-area shelter in January when the Obama administration announced a new set of removal priorities that targeted adults who entered the United States with children after May 2014. Despite Ivan’s ongoing application, an order of deportation remained active for both of them.

That’s when Ramirez connected with organizers at Austin’s Grassroots Leadership and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where she and Ivan took sanctuary, invoking a long-standing practice in which places of worship house and advocate for immigrants, taking advantage of ICE’s policy of avoiding “sensitive locations.”

Eight months later, ICE informed the family’s lawyer that they would receive relief from deportation in the form of deferred action, which protects them for one year before they must renew the status.

“This is an important step,” said Grassroots’ immigration organizer Alejandro Caceres, “but we need to see more faith communities like St. Andrew’s standing up and saying to ICE: ‘You’ll have to get through us first.’”

...

Advocates, explained Caceres, had been demanding a stay of removal, a form of relief designed for immigrants who have exhausted all of their legal options and which ICE has granted to other immigrants in sanctuary. Instead, ICE granted deferred action, which is normally given to those who never went through deportation proceedings. A key difference is that Ramirez and her son will not have to attend regular ICE check-ins.

“I can only think it was the community pressure,” Caceres told the Observer, “and they just wanted to make us leave them alone.” It remains uncertain whether ICE will grant the same relief in similar cases going forward. Caceres added that the Austin movement will continue to push for permanent cancellation of removal in the case.

Read more about Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement

Hilda and Ivan are free at last!

Hilda Ramirez is finally able to leave St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church after she and her son Ivan spent the past 8 months in sanctuary there. Hilda and Ivan were granted deferred action of one year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which means they are not at risk of deportation for the next year. Read more about Hilda and Ivan are free at last!

Pages