(AUSTIN, Texas) — Local immigrant rights advocates and attorneys joined Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar for a press conference today to announce that at least 250 Austin residents will be heading to remote Dilley, Texas this Saturday May 2 to call for an end to the detention of refugee families there. Greg Casar announced his support for his constituents’ organizing, saying that “The people of my district are a great example of how inclusive perspectives and policies that embrace immigrant families-- rather than incarcerate them-- creates vibrant and successful communities. Our federal government, and our City government, should spend as much of their time and energy as possible helping bring families together instead of tearing them apart.”
Four buses organized by Grassroots Leadership and St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin will make the 3-hour trek on Saturday to Dilley where the newest and largest for-profit family detention camp is still being built. Rev. Jim Rigby, minister at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, which is organizing two buses from that congregation to come to this Saturday’s protest, said “There is no more central theme in the Bible than that no one should mistreat immigrants.”
At least 500 people are expected to join the protest in Dilley, which kicks off a national week of action calling on the Obama Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña to end the practice of holding refugee women and children in for-profit prison camps. “Many of the people who will be protesting Saturday were part of the fight to end family detention at T. Don Hutto in Taylor and we won’t stop until this shameful policy is ended once and for all,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which is organizing Saturday’s protest.
Austin resident and former University of Texas immigration law professor Barbara Hines helped to prepare litigation challenging the government’s decision to detain migrant women and children in secure facilities and deny them bond. Hines called the practice of family detention “both immoral and illegal.”
Virginia Raymond, another Austin attorney who represents mothers and children at the Karnes family detention center which has been the location of recent hunger strikes, said “The GEO guards do not mind lying to and threatening the women in Karnes. They have threatened women participating in the hunger strike with taking away their children and told them they were bad mothers for fasting. But these are the bravest people I have ever known.”
Alejandro Caceres, Executive Director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, talked about the resolve of immigrant families and communities. “The Austin immigrant community will continue to fight against deportation and detention and even when the last private prison is closed, we will still be fighting until the humanity of all immigrants is recognized,” he said.