DHS

May 4, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Judge issues restraining order in family detention center case

A state district judge in Travis County has issued a temporary retraining order against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, preventing the agency from issuing a childcare license to one of two controversial family detention centers in South Texas.

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit that opposes private prison companies, and two detainee mothers on Tuesday asked Judge Karin Crump to invalidate new regulations that went into effect in February and allow the state to issue childcare licenses to the facilities. The state family services department, the plaintiffs say, never had the authority to rewrite the rules and give itself the power to regulate the centers.

Crump on Wednesday agreed to issue the restraining order until May 13, when the court will take up the plaintiffs’ request on the new regulations.

“This is a very good sign that the judge has recognized that we must, at least temporarily, halt the appalling practice of calling family prisons childcare centers,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Judge issues restraining order in family detention center case

May 4, 2016
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ABC News

Judge Blocks Child-Care License for Family Detention Center

A judge has blocked a temporary residential child-care license for one of the nation's largest detention centers for families caught crossing the southern U.S. border illegally.

The licenses are needed because a federal judge ruled last year the centers would have to eventually release the immigrant children without them.

State District Judge Karin Crump signed a temporary restraining order Wednesday that blocks issuance of a license to the privately owned and managed, 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The order was sought by an activist group that opposes for-profit prisons. It is effective until May 13, when arguments are scheduled on a temporary injunction to halt the licensing indefinitely. Read more about Judge Blocks Child-Care License for Family Detention Center

May 4, 2016
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The Texas Tribune

Judge Blocks State From Licensing Family Detention Center

An Austin judge temporarily blocked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from issuing a childcare license to an immigration detention center in Dilley on Wednesday.

Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit organization opposed to for-profit prisons, sued the department on Tuesday challenging its authority to issue childcare licenses to privately run immigration detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City. The Karnes City facility has already received a temporary license. 

“Today, we are glad a judge has agreed to halt, at least temporarily, the appalling practice of labeling family prisons as childcare facilities,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in a statement. “Family detention camps are prisons. They are not childcare facilities. DFPS has for a decade refused to regulate these facilities because they do not have authority to do so." Read more about Judge Blocks State From Licensing Family Detention Center

May 4, 2016
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The Guardian

Lawsuit aims to stop licensing of Texas immigration detention facilities

Immigration activists are fighting back against a Texas decision to license immigration detention centres that critics call “baby jails”.

A lawsuit was launched on Tuesday in an attempt to stop the licensing, four days after the Texas department of family and protective services (DFPS) granted a childcare licence to one of two federal family holding facilities near San Antonio, with the second set to receive its permit imminently.

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Yet the DFPS pressed on and now faces a lawsuit from Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group opposed to private prisons, and two detained mothers. It argues that the DFPS is overstepping its authority by regulating places that are not, in reality, childcare establishments. Patrick Crimmins, a DFPS spokesman, said the agency is reviewing the suit and consulting with the state’s attorney general’s office.

“By all reasonable measures, family detention camps are prisons. They are not childcare facilities,” Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. It is not the first time the group has taken legal action on the issue: It won a temporary injunction last November to stop the state from using an emergency rule to fast-track the licensing process without public comment. Read more about Lawsuit aims to stop licensing of Texas immigration detention facilities

May 3, 2016
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ABC News

Immigrant Family Detention Center Granted Child-Care License

One of the nation's largest detention centers for families caught crossing the southern U.S. border has received a temporary residential child-care license, amid discussions over whether the federal government will keep using such facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services granted the six-month license last week to the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said Tuesday. The private prison firm that runs the facility for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, GEO Group Inc., had requested it after a federal judge said last year that kids couldn't stay in the centers because they weren't approved to care for children.

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Immigrant advocates criticized the decision to grant the temporary license, citing reports of inadequate medical care and other issues as reasons why such facilities shouldn't get licenses. One group, Grassroots Leadership, said Tuesday that it and two mothers detained at Texas facilities with their children had sued in Austin to stop the licensing.

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"Anyone who has been to either of these facilities understands that they are prison facilities," said Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership. "The real question is, does an agency have the right to license a prison as a child-care facility? We think that the answer is no. They would have to go to the Legislature to get that approval." Read more about Immigrant Family Detention Center Granted Child-Care License

Apr 29, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

"Every Human Being Is Legal"

When Immigration and Customs Enforce­ment (ICE) announced at the beginning of this year that it would be intensifying its efforts to deport certain undocumented immigrants, Hilda Ramirez decided it was time to seek sanctuary.

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Ramirez, who fled Guatemala in fear of her life, has been denied asylum. Her appeal of the initial denial was also rejected. Yet there is still hope that Ivan, who is now 10, will be granted asylum on appeal, explained Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership and coordinator of the ICE Out of Austin campaign. Additionally, Ramirez's attorney plans to file for a stay of removal, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from carrying out an order of deportation. Through "prosecutorial discretion," ICE has the authority to suspend deportation cases that are not priorities, such as immigrants who do not pose threats to national security, border security, and public safety. "We want Immigration to use the power they have to withhold Hilda's deportation because, clearly, she is not a priority," said Caceres. Read more about "Every Human Being Is Legal"

Jul 3, 2015
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The Austin Chronicle

The End of Family Detention?

"Immigrant advocates applauded changes to the Obama administration's family detention policy unveiled last week that has the lowering of bonds as the cornerstone of the revamping. Categorizing the change as a first step toward reform, activists continue to call to an end to the practice of holding immigrant families.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grass­roots Leadership, also is calling for an end to the program. In May, his members joined more than 600 protesters – including a caravan of parishioners from Austin-based St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church – gathered outside the recently opened South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, calling for its closure. 'I think there is some positive movement of Johnson's announcement,' he said. "They are feeling the impact of what has been unanimous outrage over the decision to incarcerate kids and moms. But I don't think it goes far enough."

Libal points out the built-in incentive to keep families detained, given the for-profit nature of the detention camps – operated by publicly held companies that bill the government $300 a day to detain each immigrant. 'There is no way to humanely detain a kid in one of these detention camps,' he adds." Read more about The End of Family Detention?

DHS Secretary admits that family detention is flawed, yet plans to continue inhumane policy

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Yesterday’s statement by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson lays out “substantial changes” to the Administration’s family detention policy, but falls short of ending the detention of refugee families or closing the detention camps run by the for-profit prison corporations that benefit from mass family detention. Read more about DHS Secretary admits that family detention is flawed, yet plans to continue inhumane policy

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