Berks

Dec 20, 2016
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AlterNet

Mothers Incarcerated With Their Children in Obama's Disgraceful Family Prisons Want Freedom for the Holidays

“We are desperate because this will be the second Christmas that our children have to spend here,” 17 mothers incarcerated at the Berks County Family Detention Center wrote in a recent joint letter to state authorities,publicized by the advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership. “This is in addition to all the other special dates—such as the birthdays of our children and our own, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.—that we have had to spend in this jail… We ask you, 17 desperate mothers, to give the biggest gift to our children of being able to spend Christmas among family.”

Nearly 500 mothers and children are locked up in Berks, one of three remaining “family detention centers” in the United States. In 2014, the Obama administration responded to the crisis of violent displacement from Central American countries by incarcerating mothers with their children in facilities that human rights observers say amount to prisons.

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With Donald Trump slated to take the White House in a month, advocates say now is a vital time for the Obama administration to shut down the facilities and disavow their legacy. While it is difficult to predict what policies the incoming administration will unleash, the president-elect has threatened mass deportations targeting 11 million undocumented people in the United States, including up to three million forced evictions in the first 100 days.

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“Instead of handing the keys to these prisons to Donald Trump, Obama can instead end this now," said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “Family detention is a national disgrace, and a blemish on Obama’s already-terrible record on deportations." Read more about Mothers Incarcerated With Their Children in Obama's Disgraceful Family Prisons Want Freedom for the Holidays

Texas immigrant rights advocates support demonstration at Berks family detention center

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, the Shut Down Berks Coalition will hold a demonstration at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to demand that Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary Ted Dallas immediately shut the doors of the Berks family detention center and ensure the families imprisoned there don’t spend yet another Christmas incarcerated. Immigrant rights groups in Texas are echoing their call to close Berks and all end family detention. Read more about Texas immigrant rights advocates support demonstration at Berks family detention center

Aug 22, 2016
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AlterNet

There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons

The DOJ’s decision will impact 13 federal prisons run by private companies, or just over 22,000 incarcerated people. These people will be ostensibly shuffled to publicly-operated prisons, which is still a big problem for those who argue that mass incarceration itself is a profound injustice.

As the anti-prison-profiteering organization Grassroots Leadership explains, “Most privately-operated prisons within the BOP are Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. CAR prisons hold noncitizens, many of whom have been criminally prosecuted for crossing the border.” Bethany Carson, researcher and organizer for the group, said in a press statement, “We hope that this decision will be a stepping stone for the DOJ to end the use of segregated prisons for non-citizens and de-prioritize improper entry and re-entry prosecutions.” Read more about There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons

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 2, 2016
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Texas Observer

Texas Licenses Detention Center for Child Care, Despite Deficiencies

Texas has granted a temporary residential child care license to a controversial immigrant detention center, despite “deficiencies” uncovered in a recent inspection.

The initial license took effect Friday, April 29, said Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) spokesperson Patrick Crimmins.

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“It is deeply disappointing, but not surprising, that the state of Texas has put a rubber stamp on family detention at Karnes,” said Cristina Parker, immigration project coordinator at the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, in an emailed statement to the Observer. “Today, our state took this step not to protect children, but to protect the federal government from [the federal] order.” Read more about Texas Licenses Detention Center for Child Care, Despite Deficiencies

Mar 18, 2016
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The Guardian

Controversial Texas family detention center to change back to all-male facility

A controversial family detention center in Texas will be converted back to an adult male facility, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Thursday in the latest signal that the Obama administration will reduce the detention of women and children before the president’s time in office ends.

During a House appropriations committee hearing Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard asked the ICE director, Sarah Saldaña: “is it possible that ICE will stop using Karnes and Dilley [another facility] for families in [fiscal year 2017]?”

“Well, we’re pretty much there on the decision on Karnes,” Saldaña responded. “We are probably going to convert that into – our plans are to convert that into – an adult male, perhaps with children, facility. Not a family facility as it is now, with largely women.”

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Saldaña’s announcement comes as Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 cut his request for funding for family detention to 960 beds, about half the 1,800 requested the year before.

The reduction is a positive step, but it’s not enough, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which opposes private prisons.

“The question for the administration is will it go far enough for family detention not to be one of their legacy issues?” Libal asked. “Or will Obama go down as creating the largest trend in detaining families since Japanese internment?” Read more about Controversial Texas family detention center to change back to all-male facility

Feb 29, 2016
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Reading Eagle

Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

The Berks County Residential Center is not the only family detention center looking for licensing.

The country's only other family detention facilities, which are in Texas, are also working to get certification to hold children.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission recently announced that it will open a licensing pathway for the South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center to obtain licenses that allow them to hold families beginning Tuesday.

The move to license the facilities began in September when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services submitted a proposed emergency rule to the commission to create a new child care licensing category for family detention centers.

That proposal was soon met with an outcry from Grassroots Leadership, a group leading the charge against the centers in Texas.

"We won a temporary injunction because the court recognized there was no emergency other than (U.S. District Judge Dolly M.) Gee's order," said Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership's immigration programs director. Read more about Texas immigration facilities also seeking licenses to house children

Oct 23, 2015
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Huffington Post

Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

One of the three facilities that detains immigrant families in the United States will not be allowed to expand and could lose its license to operate from the state of Pennsylvania -- a major win for the advocacy groups aiming to shut down family detention.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services sent a letter on Thursday to the director of Berks County Residential Center denying a request to double its capacity from 96 to 192. That is because the facility is being used to hold "only refugee immigrant families" when its license is for "child resident facilities," Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas wrote.

If the facility continues to serve families rather than children, the department will not renew its license when it expires in February 2016, Dallas added.

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In July, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the family detention policy violated the 1997 Flores settlement, which says that undocumented children must be held in the least restrictive setting and immigration authorities should generally favor a policy of releasing them. The settlement prohibits detaining children for more than a few days in centers that are not licensed child care facilities.

After hearing a government response, Gee ordered the Obama administration in August to quickly release the children -- and in some instances, the mothers -- locked in family detention. She gave U.S. officials until Oct. 23 to show compliance. 

In order to comply with the ruling, the private companies that run the two family detention centers in Texas -- Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group -- have applied to license the centers as child care facilities. The Texas Department of Child Protective Services issued an emergency rule last month to start the licensing process, but the Austin-based group Grassroots Leadership, which opposes the private prison industry, filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping it. Read more about Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License

Finally, ICE relents and some women and children are released from long-term family detention

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Bowing to intense pressure, immigration officials announced Monday that they will release some detained families who have been found to have credible fear of returning to their home countries. “ICE has finally begun to take concrete action in response to public outcry against the detention of refugee families,” said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Finally, ICE relents and some women and children are released from long-term family detention

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