Karnes

May 3, 2016
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Texas Observer

Immigrant Families Sue to Stop Licensing Detention Centers for Child Care

On Tuesday, Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit opposed to private prisons, is also a plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in state court in Austin. Grassroots Leadership and the detained mothers have asked a judge to stop the licensure both of the Karnes facility and the South Texas Residential Center in Dilley. Together, the two facilities currently house about 1,800 immigrant mothers and children, many of whom are fleeing gang violence and persecution in Central America.

“By all reasonable measures, family detention camps are prisons. They are not child care facilities,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership’s executive director, in a press release.

DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins told the Observer that the agency is “reviewing and consulting with the [Texas attorney general’s] office” regarding the lawsuit. Read more about Immigrant Families Sue to Stop Licensing Detention Centers for Child Care

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

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

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"

Mar 18, 2016
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Texas Observer

An End to Family Detention? Immigration Groups are Wary

A top immigration official told D.C. lawmakers Thursday that the Karnes Family Residential Center — one of two immigrant detention centers in Texas that houses immigrant women and their children — will be converted to an all-male facility, possibly with kids.

In response to a question from U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, about whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would stop locking up migrant families fleeing persecution in their home countries, the Guardian reported that ICE Director Sarah Saldaña said:

“Well, we’re pretty much there on the decision on Karnes,” Saldaña said. “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.”

Texas immigrant rights advocates, though, aren’t celebrating just yet. Saldaña’s statement isn’t definitive, they said, and came with very little other information, such as the process and timeline of the conversion.

“We’re just trying to figure out, what does this mean, right?” Cristina Parker, immigration programs director with the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the Observer Friday morning. “It seems strange to me that they would convert it to an all-male facility. And I don’t know what ‘perhaps with children’ means,” she said. Read more about An End to Family Detention? Immigration Groups are Wary

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

Mar 16, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Shortened detention stays put immigration officials in bind

As officials shorten the amount of time that families are held at South Texas’ immigration detention centers, methods of providing access to legal representation and education at the facilities are becoming outdated.

Top-ranking immigration officials heard from activists, experts and practitioners about how to improve conditions in the detention facilities during a San Antonio meeting of the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers on Wednesday. The committee spent Tuesday touring the local detention facilities.

As of Tuesday, there were 449 immigrants held at the family detention center in Karnes County and 468 at the sprawling center in Dilley.

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A series of nonprofit workers, immigration attorneys and Catholic nuns told committee members that the facilities in Karnes County and Dilley are tantamount to jails and that improvements won’t fix the problems of holding women and children fleeing violence.

“The only solution for this is to close these places down,” said Alejandro Caceres, a 28-year-old lawful permanent resident from Honduras and an immigration organizer with the group Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Shortened detention stays put immigration officials in bind

Mar 16, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Child Care Center or Baby Jail?

For more than a year now, immigration rights and child welfare advocates, human rights activists, and attorneys have called on the government to end the practice of holding immigrant women and their children in family detention centers, charging that they're "baby jails" that need to be closed.

However, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) sees things differently. DFPS, which is part of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, last month approved licensing family detention centers as child-care facilities.

"Child-care facilities exist to take care of children," wrote Virginia Raymond, an Austin-based immigration attorney who vocally opposes the move. The state of Texas, which requires most child-care centers to be licensed, also mandates through DFPS the specific minimal standards those centers must meet. Because family detention centers cannot meet those standards, these critical requirements are waived for the sole purpose of licensing these centers, so they can legally remain open. Read more about Child Care Center or Baby Jail?

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

Feb 22, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

Outside Governor Greg Abbott’s office on Monday, immigrant and child advocates spread out blankets, coloring books and snacks, declaring the public space a “pop-up child-care facility.”

Organizers said they planned to spend the day roaming the Capitol grounds and asking parents whether they would be willing to leave their children with the volunteers, less than half a dozen people with little to no child care experience. The event, hosted by the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, was meant to underscore what advocates said is the absurdity of a new state rule that allows child-care licenses to be issued for immigrant family detention centers in South Texas.

“We all know (family detention) is a sham,” said Chuck Freeman, executive director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry. “We all know it’s dishonest. We all know we wouldn’t want our children there.” Read more about Advocates organize “child care pop-up” to protest family detention

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