(AUSTIN, Texas) — In a major victory for advocates, an Austin judge has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing a child care license under lowered standards to the nation’s largest immigration detention center - the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.
The ruling by Judge Karin Crump of the 250th District Court prohibits the agency from issuing a license to the prison, operated by private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America, until a September hearing to determine whether the agency has the authority to license the Dilley facility and a separate facility in Karnes County, Texas operated by private prison corporation GEO Group. Both facilities detained mothers and their children for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Family detention camps are prisons; they are not childcare facilities. Slapping a license on the facilities will not change that fact,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a plaintiff in the case. “We are glad the court heard our concerns today 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.”
The plaintiffs — mothers detained with their children in Dilley and Karnes and Grassroots Leadership — have argued that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is only granted authority to regulate child care facilities and that family jails are not child care facilities. The plaintiffs also say that family detention is harmful to children and that licensing the facilities under lowered standards would only increase the harm suffered.
Judge Crump heard testimony today from 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.
Those who testified in court today included Dr. Luis Zayas, Dean of the UT-Austin School of Social Work, Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, Texas Associate Director of the Children's Defense Fund–Texas, Immigration Attorney Jodi Goodwin, and Jennifer Carr Allmon, Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference. They all told the judge that licensing the family detention centers in Texas would only further traumatize children locked up with their mothers, who are all fleeing violence in Central America and seeking asylum in the U.S.
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.
Further pleadings by the plaintiffs filed in the case last week demonstrate, along with today’s testimony, that not only has the state not authorized the agency to license these facilities, but that licensing the detention centers actually harms children by reducing standards and lengthening the stay of detention in the federal lockups operated by private prison companies.
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
Bob Libal, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-971-0487