immigrant detention

We demand the immediate release of Laura Monterrosa, victim of sexual abuse at the Hutto Detention Center

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Yesterday, two women joined Laura Monterrosa in speaking out about sexual abuse at the Don T. Hutto Detention Center.  One of the women, Ana*,  said that she filed a report against the guard who harassed and in return, she was moved to Laredo as an act of retaliation.  Both, Laura and Ana’s abusers are still employed at Hutto and as a result, Laura is facing increased retaliation and alienation from CoreCivic officials. Laura’s decision to speak out could have a major impact for all women detained at Hutto, but for that to happen she needs your help.

TAKE ACTION: “I demand that Laura is released immediately, she is a victim and should not be punished for speaking out!”


Ayer, dos mujeres se unieron a Laura Monterrosa para hablar sobre el abuso sexual en el Centro de Detención Don T. Hutto. Una de las mujeres, Ana *, dijo que presentó un informe contra el guardia que hostigaba y, a cambio, la trasladaron a Laredo como un acto de represalia. Ambos, los abusadores de Laura y Ana todavía están empleados en Hutto y como resultado, Laura enfrenta una mayor represalia y alienación por parte de los funcionarios de CoreCivic. La decisión de Laura de hablar abiertamente podría tener un gran impacto para todas las mujeres detenidas en Hutto, pero para que eso suceda necesita su ayuda.

ACTÚE: "Exijo que Laura sea liberada inmediatamente, ¡ella es una víctima y no debería ser castigada por hablar!" Read more about We demand the immediate release of Laura Monterrosa, victim of sexual abuse at the Hutto Detention Center

BREAKING: More women join Laura Monterrosa in speaking out about sexual abuse by guards at Hutto immigrant detention center

(AUSTIN, Texas) — This week, two additional women joined Laura Monterrosa in speaking out about sexual abuse at Hutto. One woman currently detained in Laredo, “Ana”, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation said in a visit with Grassroots Leadership staff: Read more about BREAKING: More women join Laura Monterrosa in speaking out about sexual abuse by guards at Hutto immigrant detention center

Courageous woman, Laura Monterrosa, speaks out on sexual assaults at Hutto immigrant detention center

AUSTIN — A letter received by advocates at Grassroots Leadership last week from inside the Hutto immigrant detention center describes sexual assaults against two women at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center in Taylor, Texas and names two different guards as perpetrators. Laura Monterrosa describes a pattern of sexual assault at Hutto that she has endured since June. Read more about Courageous woman, Laura Monterrosa, speaks out on sexual assaults at Hutto immigrant detention center

What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

A letter from inside a controversial detention center contains new reports of sexual assault and retaliation against women detained in an immigrant detention center near Austin. The T. Don Hutto detention center, which imprisons asylum-seeking women, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before.  One former guard was even incarcerated for multiple assaults.

Now, a letter sent by L.M. (the woman’s initials) from inside the Hutto detention center describes her and others’ experiences of sexual assault and retaliation and names two guards as perpetrators. The facility in Taylor, Texas, is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the private prison company commonly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, (which prefers to be called by its new corporate identity “CoreCivic” to obscure their three-decades long history). Guards at the facility are employees of the private prison company.

The letter describes a pattern of sexual assault that L.M. has endured since June. She writes that a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will. “She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her, which I did not want, but I had to do what she wanted,” she described. “She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.” Read more about What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

Diabetic woman detained at Hutto in urgent need of emergency care for improper treatment: Attorney’s request for medical release was denied this morning

(Austin, Texas) —  Yesterday Austin advocates launched a campaign demanding the release of Brenda Menjivar Guardado, a young woman from El Salvador who is experiencing serious symptoms related to improper treatment of diabetes by medical staff at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. Read more about Diabetic woman detained at Hutto in urgent need of emergency care for improper treatment: Attorney’s request for medical release was denied this morning

Apr 14, 2017
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The Texas Tribune

Trump greenlights a new immigrant-detention center in Texas

A private-prison company that has for years been in the crosshairs of immigrant rights groups announced Thursday it will build a $110 million detention complex in the Houston metro area.

The Florida-based GEO Group said in a news release its new facility will be built in the city of Conroe as part of a 10-year, renewable contract with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The detention center will be finished toward the end of 2018, the company said. The Associated Press first reported the story.

Immigrant advocacy groups said the move signals the beginning of President Trump’s efforts to expand detentions and begin fast-tracking the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. Part of the president's Jan. 25 executive order on immigration instructed the Department of Homeland Security to increase bed space for undocumented immigrants subject to removal. 

“We’re not surprised, but we are deeply disappointed that the administration is not only lining the pockets of the private-prison industry but expanding detention,” said Bob Libal, the executive director for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based immigrant rights and private-prison watchdog group.

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The new facility will add to the GEO Group’s heavy presence in Texas. The company’s website lists more than a dozen facilities it operates in the state. They range from smaller local jails used mainly by the U.S. Marshals Service to larger immigration-detention complexes near the border.

GEO Group was involved in a lengthy legal battle last year after Grassroots Leadership filed a lawsuit to prevent the company’s Karnes City facility from being licensed as a child-care facility by state officials. The center houses hundreds of women and children that were part of the surge of undocumented immigrants from Central America who began arriving to Texas in record numbers four years ago.

The child-care facility licensing has been necessary since 2015, when U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered that immigrants held in Texas and elsewhere should be released because their detention violates the provisions of a 1997 settlement — the Flores v. Meese agreement — that requires undocumented juveniles be held in facilities that protect their health and safety.

A state district judge denied the state the ability to issue the licenses, but the facility continues to operate as a temporary processing center, Libal said. Read more about Trump greenlights a new immigrant-detention center in Texas

Apr 4, 2017
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Critics say lawmakers are trying to license 'little jails' to hold immigrant families

The state calls them family residential centers. Opponents have called them  “prisons for profit” and “little jails.”

On Wednesday, committees in both legislative chambers will address bills that would allow the Department of Family and Protective Services to license Texas facilities that house unauthorized mothers and children while they await their immigration hearings.

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In July 2015, a federal judge ruled that children can live in detention centers only if the centers are licensed by state child welfare agencies. Karnes and the South Texas facility, which is southwest of San Antonio, weren't licensed and faced closure.

To keep them from shuttering, in February 2016 the Department of Family and Protective Services gave itself the authority to license the facilities. Keeping them open helps the state deal with immigration control. But a state district court in December blocked Texas from issuing the licenses.

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, author of the Senate bill, said in a meeting of the committee on Veteran Affairs and Border Security last week that his proposal was meant to address the court ruling. Lawmakers on the committee are expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, while members of the House State Affairs committee will hear testimony on an identical bill by Rep. John Raney, R-College Station.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which brought the suit that halted the licensing of the centers, said immigrants have in the past been released to family members in the country after being issued notices to appear in court for their immigration hearings.

Most of these families are asylum seekers, Libal said, so they're not flight risks because there's an incentive for them to return to court and keep in contact with immigration officials. He said that family residential centers are not the only option and that his group would oppose the legislation to license them.

“There’s a whole range [of alternatives] that are less harsh than detaining families,” he said. Read more about Critics say lawmakers are trying to license 'little jails' to hold immigrant families

Apr 3, 2017
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The Austin American-Statesmen

ICE officials: 24 in Austin-Waco arrested in new immigration sweep

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say they arrested 153 people in Texas suspected of being in the country illegally — including 24 people picked up in the Austin-Waco area — as part of the second enforcement operation immigration officials have confirmed in the state this year.

The 12-day operation, which lasted from March 20 to March 31, differed in execution and results from another one performed in the area during the second week of February.

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ICE officials also said all of the people arrested in last month’s operation had previous criminal convictions, as opposed to the February raid. Federal documents obtained by the American-Statesman showed 28 of the 51 people arrested in February were deemed “non-criminals,” or people with no previous criminal convictions but suspected of living in the country illegally.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said in open court last month that ICE agents alerted him and another federal judge about the February raid, which they said was retribution for the new Travis County sheriff’s policy limiting the jail’s cooperation with immigration officials, the Statesman reported last month.

ICE officials declined Friday to comment further on the arrests, but in a news release, Daniel Bible, field office director for enforcement and removal operations in San Antonio, said: “ICE’s primary immigration enforcement efforts target convicted criminal aliens. … Consequently, our operations improve overall public safety by removing these criminals from our streets, and ultimately from our country.”

Local activists criticized the new operation.

“I think this continues a trend of ICE instilling fear in our community and … arresting more people in our community,” said Bob Libal, with the Austin-based immigration support network Grassroots Leadership. Read more about ICE officials: 24 in Austin-Waco arrested in new immigration sweep

Mar 31, 2017
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Lexington Herald Leader

Empty jails hope to cash in on illegal immigration crackdown

Several Texas counties that are struggling with debt because their jails have few or no prisoners hope to refill those cellblocks with a different kind of inmate: immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

The debt dates back to the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, when some rural counties were losing employment prospects and population. To bring jobs and money, they built correctional centers with hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand beds that could be used to house inmates from other counties as well as prisoners for the state and federal governments.

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Jails and private prisons across the country are weighing their options after the Department of Homeland Security announced in January that it was shopping for more jail space as part of its efforts to secure the border.

In some places, the situation is the reverse of Texas, with public prisons full and states paying for extra beds. A private prison operator that had been housing 250 inmates for Vermont recently dropped the state as a client because the federal government will probably offer more for the same space.

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Three vacant Texas detention centers have been sold to private prison companies in the last few weeks, according to county officials and records filed with the national Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Some of the jails require updating to meet U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards, but the existing facilities could put Texas at an advantage compared with other states where the companies would have to spend months building detention space.

Meanwhile, the traditional inmate-holding business is still declining. A proposed budget from the Texas Senate would end state contracts with four facilities, including three that are privately run, making it more important for those companies to get immigrant contracts to stay profitable.

ICE would not discuss how many beds the agency might need or its timetable for obtaining them. Agency spokesman Carl Rusnok declined to discuss any negotiations, citing the confidentiality of the federal contracting process.

At least one advocacy group is wary of the secretive process and of putting more detainees in privately run facilities after complaints and violations of inmate-care standards.

"If this is the plan to expand to the bottom of the barrel in detention centers, that should raise huge red flags for people concerned about immigrants' well-being and rights," said Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which seeks immigration and detention reform. Read more about Empty jails hope to cash in on illegal immigration crackdown

Mar 28, 2017
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The Brownsville Herald

Use of ankle monitors for immigrants on rise

Twelve years ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiated the use of ankle monitors on immigrants. After the large influx of Central American asylum seekers in 2014, the use increased dramatically.

According to authorities, close to 70,000 Central American refugees arrived at the U.S. border in 2014. Many were incarcerated in South Texas detention centers, while others were offered the option of wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of being released.

Within one year, approximately 23,000 immigrants were being monitored by that method. That number climbed to 60,000 in 2016.

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According to ICE, the ankle devices are an efficient way to make certain that immigrants show up for their court dates without having to detain them.

ICE reported that during the past two years, 99 percent of monitored immigrants have appeared at their hearings. ICE also says that compared to detention, the monitors are far less expensive to operate and maintain.

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based group that opposes private prisons, says ankle monitors don’t address the underlying problem.

“On a systems level, it’s not accomplishing the goal of reducing the number of people in detention, or making our immigration system a more humane one,” he said.

Because many immigrants are held for months before being released with the ankle monitors, the devices aren’t fulfilling their goal as alternatives to detention. In October 2016, the number of detainees skyrocketed to a record high of 42,000.

BI Inc., a privately owned company, has a five-year contract with ICE to run the federal government’s program for alternatives to detention. BI Inc. is owned by parent company GEO Group, a private prison company that runs numerous detention centers. Read more about Use of ankle monitors for immigrants on rise

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