A child detained at a Serco facility in Australia said, "Even if you make this place heaven it is not enough for us because we feel like we are in a cage. We feel people see us like animals in a cage."
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.
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
The U.S. has three family detention centers, used to hold migrant children and their mothers as they apply for asylum, and the two largest are in Texas. One is in Dilley, the other in Karnes. They’re both dusty towns between San Antonio and the Mexican border, and together they have about 3,500 beds.
The facilities have been at the center of a legal fight in Texas courts this week. The issue is whether one of these centers could or should be considered a child-care facility. The Obama administration has tried to get Texas to grant its Karnes County Residential Center a child-care license, arguing that the designation would serve in the best interest of immigrant children, who are held there as they’re screened for asylum. But immigration advocates hope to shut down the centers, which they view as prisons––or at the very least, they want the children released. This strange-sounding struggle over a label is about legal semantics, but it’s also about how the U.S. chooses and is allowed to treat migrant children. Read more about Is it an Immigration Detention Facility or a Child-Care Center?
The latest development made headlines late last week when the Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services quietly granted a childcare license to the Karnes County Residential Center, run by The GEO Group Inc.
An Austin-based advocacy group, Grassroots Leadership, quickly sued.
"Our contention is that the agency does not have the authority to license prisons as children-care facilities, and these family detention camps are prisons," says Bob Libal, executive director of the organization.
On Wednesday, the state judge granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the state agency from granting another license to a second, larger family detention center. The South Texas Family Residential Center is run by Corrections Corp. of America. Read more about Texas Judge Refuses To License Child Care Facility In Immigrant Detention Center
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
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
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’
A state court judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked state authorities from licensing as a child care facility a federal immigration detention center holding migrant children and their mothers. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was preparing to issue a child care license to the center, located in Dilley, where families seeking asylum, including very young children, are detained. Ruling on an emergency request by Grassroots Leadership, a prison advocacy group, Judge Karin Crump of Travis County found it was “probable” that new regulations adopted by the department to support the license were inconsistent with state law. On Friday, Texas issued a child care license to a similar detention center nearby in Karnes City. Read more about Texas: Child Care License Is Delayed For Immigration Detention Center
Immigrant activists are fighting to prevent Texas from licensing controversial detention centers as child care facilities, saying these centers are more accurately described as prisons.
They won a victory in court this week. On Wednesday, an Austin district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Texas’ largest immigrant family detention center in Dilley from being labeled as a child care facility, after activists from the Grassroots Leadership organization sued on behalf of two Central American mothers being detained there.
The judge issued a week-long restraining order preventing Texas officials from awarding a child care license to the privately-run, for-profit South Texas Family Residential Center. The order expires on May 13, when the court will hear the organization’s request for a temporary injunction against new state regulations to license the center. Read more about Judge Temporarily Blocks Texas From Licensing A ‘Baby Jail’ As A Child Care Center
AUSTIN, Texas - A temporary restraining order was issued Wednesday that prevents the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from issuing a childcare license to the South Texas Family Residential Care Center in Dilley.
The order is in response to a lawsuit filed by Grassroots Leadership to halt childcare licensing of controversial immigrant family detention centers in South Texas.
The center in Dilley and the Karnes County Residential Center had both applied for licenses under lowered standards, adopted under a new regulation, which were implemented by the agency on March 1. The Karnes facility was granted a childcare license on Friday. Wednesday the court blocked licensure of the Dilley center. Read more about Childcare licensing for Dilley family detention camp halted