Karnes

Feb 12, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

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The state’s child protection agency will now license immigrant family detention centers, all but guaranteeing that the two Texas facilities housing thousands of mothers and children will remain open.

The South Texas Family Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center — which can house up to 3,300 families awaiting immigration proceedings — had been in danger of closing because of a July federal court ruling that says children can only live in detention centers if they are licensed by state child welfare agencies. Texas’ facilities are not.

Until now, the state Department of Family and Protective Services had maintained that it didn’t have the legal authority to license, inspect and investigate the facilities. This week, the agency gave itself that power.

The two detention centers, both run by private prison companies, will have to apply for licenses, Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said. But that licensure is almost assured. For months, the state has insisted that regulation would help protect the children who live there. More recently, officials have also said keeping the centers open helps with immigration control. Federal officials asked Texas to license the facilities, Crimmins told the Statesman last month.

Immigration rights advocates criticized the state’s decision, saying the move is solely motivated by politics.

“I think the agency should be ashamed,” said Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prison companies. Read more about Texas to license family immigrant detention centers

Feb 16, 2016
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RH Reality Check

For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission approved a proposed rule Friday to reduce child-care standards, permitting two for-profit detention centers detaining hundreds of children in the state to move forward with the licensing process.

Grassroots Leadership, the Texas-based organization that won a temporary injunction in November in its suit to stop the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from licensing Karnes County Residential Center and Dilley’s South Texas Family Residential Center as child-care facilities under an emergency rule, said in a press release that Friday’s ruling could set a dangerous precedent.

The emergency rule would have eliminated minimum child safety standards applicable to all child-care facilities in Texas. Because Grassroots Leadership received the temporary injunction, Karnes and Dilley were forced to go through the traditional licensing procedure, which enabled immigrant rights organizers, child welfare advocates, academic researchers, and immigrant families released from detention centers to attend December’s public hearing at DFPS and comment on the proposal to license the family detention centers as child-care facilities.

An open records request obtained by Grassroots Leadership found that DFPS received more than 5,000 pages filled with comments, letters, emails, and testimony that were “overwhelmingly against” adopting the proposed rule. Read more about For-Profit Texas Prisons Could Reduce Standards for Holding Children

Feb 16, 2016
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Houston Public Media

Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, DFPS, announced last Friday it will allow two facilities that house undocumented families, including minors, to obtain a license to remain open.

Most of the detainees at these facilities –located in Dilley and Karnes City, south of San Antonio—arrived in the United States during the surge of undocumented immigrants of 2014.

Last July, Federal Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, was breaking the terms of a 1997 settlement.

The settlement requires undocumented minors to be removed from detention centers as quickly as possible.

If the federal government can’t do that, the children must be housed in facilities licensed by state agencies responsible for child welfare.

In Texas, that agency is the Department of Family and Protective Services, which, just last week, established a new category of facilities called family residential centers.

Dilley and Karnes City will be under that category and, therefore, allowed to apply for the pertinent license after March 1st, which is when the new category will go into effect.

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Bob Libal is the executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which opposes keeping undocumented families in detention centers.

Libal argues the new category will help the federal government keep the facilities open.

“This was essentially an effort to help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the private prison corporations keep these facilities open when we know these facilities are dangerous for children,” said Libal, referring to the decision by DFPS. Read more about Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

Feb 8, 2016
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ThinkProgress

Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

Texas state officials are moving ahead with a proposal to license controversial detention centers for detained immigrant families as child care facilities.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council submitted a proposed rule last week that would create a child care licensing category at two family detention centers located in Dilley and Karnes City. The proposed rule is up for consideration with the state’s Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), though it’s as yet unknown when the commission will make a final decision, the Texas Observer reported.

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The category change has been widely condemned by child welfare and immigrant rights activists who gathered before the meeting to demand that state officials scrap plans. An Open Records Request obtained by the activist organization, Grassroots Leadership, found that Texas DFPS Commissioner Judge John Specia, Jr. and Texas Governor Greg Abbott “received more than 5,000 pages worth of comments in opposition to the proposal,” according to a press statement. Read more about Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ Centers

Jan 29, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

No easy answers as Texas weighs fate of immigrant detention centers

The speakers trekked to the podium one after another, simultaneously lambasting and pleading with a panel of child protection officials weighing the fate of thousands of immigrant mothers and children in detention centers.

Why on earth, they demanded to know, would state officials even think about licensing these places as child care facilities?

“They are prisons, plain and simple,” said Antonio Diaz, an anti-detention center advocate with the Texas Indigenous Council. “They are prisons for profit.”

And so it went for four hours at the December public hearing on whether the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services should license and regulate two Texas facilities that house undocumented mothers and children. But that debate is coming to an end. The agency is expected to announce its decision in the next few weeks.

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“This is not about the welfare of children,” said Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes the private prison industry. “This is a desperate attempt for the state to bail out the federal government’s immigrant detention regime.” Read more about No easy answers as Texas weighs fate of immigrant detention centers

Jan 15, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

Women and Children First: Immigration raids targeting families strike fear in Austin's Latino community

The new year has brought with it a renewed effort to seize and deport undocumented immigrants and refugees. On Jan. 4, Department of Homeland Security Sec­re­ta­ry Jeh Johnson issued a press release announcing, "This past weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) engaged in concerted, nationwide enforcement operations to take into custody and return at a greater rate adults who entered this country illegally with children. This should come as no surprise. I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed." Johnson went on to say that the targets of the operation were "adults and their children who (i) were apprehended after May 1, 2014 crossing the southern border illegally, (ii) have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court, and (iii) have exhausted appropriate legal remedies, and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws."

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In Austin, it is unclear whether anyone has been seized as part of the ICE raids. Rumors of raids on Rundberg and Down­town have circulated, but have not been confirmed. Regardless, there are many in the immigrant community who believe they're potential targets. For now, the primary response from immigrant rights advocates has been to organize "Know Your Rights" trainings for the undocumented, which largely consist of warning people not to open the door to ICE agents, as well as planning for families who might be left behind if some members were deported. Workers Defense Project plans to hold trainings every Thursday at 7pm, and City Council Member Greg Casar, whose District 4 has the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the city, said his office has received calls from constituents who are "afraid about the fact that ICE could be knocking on someone's door and taking them away." Casar said that his office is working on gathering information about the raids, including whether ICE has requested the assistance of local law enforcement. Of course, City Council can only do so much about what is a federal policy. "We don't want to give the impression that by City Council resolution, we're going to stop the raids," Casar said. In the spirit of "directing as much of our advocacy as possible toward solving problems," Casar's office plans to partner with Grass­roots Leadership to hold a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30. The meeting will include information on immigrants' rights as well as on other services, including places where those who fear deportation can seek sanctuary.

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Many observers believe the raids are an attempt by the Obama administration to demonstrate that it can be tough on immigration, even as it pushes for immigration reform. The lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the constitutionality of Oba­ma's executive action expanding DACA and DAPA is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court this year. The raids are "proof that Obama doesn't care about actual immigrant community members," said Grass­roots Leadership Immigration Organ­izer Alejandro Caceres. "We're political pawns." Read more about Women and Children First: Immigration raids targeting families strike fear in Austin's Latino community

Dec 16, 2015
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Free Speech Radio News

Ten years after launch of Operation Streamline, criminal immigration charges dominate federal caseloads

Today marks the 10 years since Operation Streamline took effect. The policy significantly increased the caseloads in criminal courts along the southern U.S. border by criminalizing what used to be a civil offense:  illegal re-entry into the United States. Operation Streamline started as a pilot program in the Del Rio sector of the Texas border, but later expanded to Yuma, Arizona; Laredo, Texas and eventually to all southern border sectors except those in California. To take a look at what the net effects of the policy have been a decade later, FSRN’s Shannon Young spoke with Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. Read more about Ten years after launch of Operation Streamline, criminal immigration charges dominate federal caseloads

Dec 11, 2015
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RH Reality Check

Advocates: Don’t License Texas Detention Centers as Child-Care Facilities

Dozens of immigrant rights organizers, child welfare advocates, academic researchers, and immigrant families released from detention centers gathered at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) headquarters on Wednesday for a public hearing regarding a proposed rule to license the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley as child-care facilities. Both family detention centers have documented histories of human rights abuses, including the abuse of children.

In November, the Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership won a temporary injunction in its suit to stop DFPS from licensing the family detention centers as child-care facilities under an emergency rule, which would have eliminated the minimum child safety standards applicable to all child-care facilities in the state.

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which works to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention, told RH Reality Check that Wednesday’s hearing was a direct result of the injunction that forced DFPS to hear the public’s concerns around using these prisons as child-care facilities.

“Dozens and dozens of people came to testify,” Libal said. “All of them were against licensing these facilities as child-care centers. We had a diverse group of advocates and people with lived experience of being in these facilities and working in these facilities and all of them testified that family prison should never be a child-care facility.” Read more about Advocates: Don’t License Texas Detention Centers as Child-Care Facilities

Dec 10, 2015
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Texas Observer

Experts, Activists Challenge Detention Child Care Licenses

Dozens of activists gathered for a public hearing and press conference in Austin on Wednesday, hoping to block family detention centers from becoming licensed child care facilities.

One woman, who was held in a South Texas detention center for 11 months, told reporters that she and her son fled their home country of Guatemala in 2014, hoping to secure asylum in the United States. Upon their arrival, Hilda — who asked that their last name not be used — and 9-year-old Ivan were placed in the Karnes County Residential Center, one of the two federal family detention centers currently housing an estimated 2,000 migrant women and children in Texas.

During their internment at Karnes, Hilda said, her son did not get proper medical care when he was sick, and Hilda watched as other children grew thin and often fainted, because of the poor quality of the food. She described a sterile, prison-like environment, where guards would only bring out toys and blankets for children when federal officials would visit the facility.

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In September, DFPS began trying to keep the detention facilities open to house women and children by creating a new child care licensing category for family detention centers. But Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that has fought for the closure of family detention centers since 2006, filed suit against DFPS in order to block the licensure, and a Travis County district court halted the state’s efforts in late November. Instead, ruled Judge Karin Crump, the state would have to complete the normal administrative process required when creating new child care licensing rules and hold a public hearing.

That hearing took place Wednesday over the course of three hours at DFPS headquarters, where activists called the agency’s attempt to secure child care licenses for detention centers a way to “legitimize the detention of children,” which would perpetuate the traumatic and emotional impact of the violence and persecution migrant families experienced in their home countries. Read more about Experts, Activists Challenge Detention Child Care Licenses

Dec 9, 2015
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The San Antonio Express News

Immigrant advocates fight effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

AUSTIN - Advocates for immigrants and children are fighting a proposal to allow federal detention centers to be licensed by the state as residential child-care facilities, saying Texas shouldn’t lend legitimacy to the operation. Read more about Immigrant advocates fight effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

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