"No one should be subject to the appalling treatment that Laura has experienced while detained for nine months," Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant advocacy organisation based in Texas, said in a statement delivered to Al Jazeera. Read more about Women and children detained in 'freezing cells' on US border: HRW
Senate Bill 1018 was advanced with a wide margin of 20-11 votes along party lines, with all the Senate Republicans voting in favor.
The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed a new bill written by the GEO group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S., that legitimizes the existence of immigrant family detention centers as child care facilities.
The bill’s passage comes amid a slew of anti-immigrant ordinances passed by state lawmakers.
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a group that opposes mass incarceration told the Texas Observer, “It’s outrageous that the Texas Senate just passed a bill bought and paid for by private prison corporations whose sole purpose is to detain immigrant children for longer."
Senate Bill 1018 was advanced with a wide margin of 20-11 votes along party lines, with all the Senate Republicans voting in favor. Three out of four people who approved the bill were GEO members, according to America's Voice, a grassroots nonprofit organization.
The federal government uses these sub-standard family detention centers to hold women and children seeking asylum, and who are often fleeing violence in Central America. According to the federal court rulings, the centers can hold children for few weeks but the new bill would allow the detention centers to hold women and children for the duration of their asylum cases. Read more about Texas Senate Passes 'Baby Jail' Bill Backed by Prison Company
(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
(AUSTIN, Texas) — An Austin-based immigration attorney has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate why the school inside an immigrant family prison is inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments. Read more about Dept. of Justice urged to investigate ADA violations in Karnes family detention center
The US immigration detention has ballooned since the turn of the millennium, doubling in size between 2000 and 2010 amidst a national crackdown on immigration. The bloated system, run largely by private, for-profit prison companies,currently incarcerates men, women, and even children, and the detention centers have been plagued by allegations of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual assault.
In a significant departure from the Obama administration's policies, Clinton has pledged to close these private-run detention centers. She has also promised to close the family detention centers opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to an influx of children and mothers seeking asylum from violence-plagued countries in Central America.
Immigration advocates aren't totally satisfied, pointing out that Clinton has not actually promised to decrease overall detention of undocumented immigrants. "We don't think immigrant detention should exist," said Christina Parker, who directs immigration programs for Grassroots Leadership. "There's a strong argument that the only reason immigrant detention so large is to profit two or three companies. So if you believe that then there would be no reason for them to exist after private contracts ended."
Parker added that the Democratic candidate should specify "how exactly and when exactly" the facilities would shut down. So far, Clinton has not. Read more about Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans
“At first the Obama administration said they were locking up families to deter people from crossing,” Cristina Parker, organizer with the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet. “Then when a judge said that was unconstitutional they changed their rationale and said it’s for national security, which is a thin argument. Seeing on paper that they have a quota that directly benefits private prisons underlines that family detention is really driving revenue and profits.” Read more about Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children
Federal immigration officials are moving forward with plans for a new 500-bed family detention center to house migrant women and children, even as many advocates and politicians have called for the closure of such facilities altogether.
Officials in Dimmit County, 45 miles from the Texas border with Mexico, say they’ll consider a bid on Monday from a firm who says their facility in a 27-acre former work camp for oil workers would provide dramatically better conditions than two other family detention centers in the state.
Those facilities have faced complaints of poor food, inadequate medical care and allegations of sexual abuse from detainees, activists and the US Civil Rights Commission.
But Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership, said she and other advocates object inherently to the concept of a detention center for families fleeing violence, regardless of the purported conditions.
“If you are not free to leave, then it doesn’t matter how nice it is,” Parker said. “It’s a prison.” Read more about Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center
Dimmit County leaders are facing the same question that county commissioners in Jim Wells asked themselves earlier this month: Are the legal and financial risks that come with family detention worth it? Widespread opposition from Jim Wells County residents and concerns about financial and legal liability for the local community led county commissioners to wisely reject the proposal. Now, the Dimmit County Commissioners Court has this question on the agenda for their upcoming Monday, June 27 meeting.
Serious legal and financial questions, and the promise of a new president next year means that the family detention policy that fills the facility may not even exist next year. Dimmit County could join the long list of small communities left behind after betting their community’s future on detaining immigrants. Read more about BREAKING: Dimmit County is the latest Texas county to be sold a bill of goods on family detention
The detention centres “are like prisons, with heavy metal doors and fences,” explained Parker. “You can’t enter them without authorisation. Some of the detainees have access to legal advice, but it is not something that’s guaranteed.”
With only five per cent of the world population, the United States holds over 20 per cent of the world’s prison population, in local, state and federal prisons. With over 2.3 million people convicted, imprisoned or detained, and the trend towards privatising prisons, it is an attractive business. The detention centres for undocumented immigrants, although a small slice of the cake, also generate profits.
And with the growth in the flow of migrants and refugees this decade, the sector is doing well. Read more about Undocumented immigrant detainees: the (passive) merchandise of a lucrative business
An abrupt about-face has thwarted efforts by the British security firm Serco to open its first family detention center in Texas. Local officials unanimously voted this week against “entering contract agreements” with the company after at least a month of negotiations.
Serco has promised 200 local jobs if the center is opened. But human rights advocates say the opportunity may not last if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president, since she has promised to end the practice of detaining families.
“This box they’re trying to sell you may have zero value in a few months because we might get a president who might say that family detention is over,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, during last week’s meeting with residents. Read more about Texas officials vote against British firm's plans for immigration detention center