Friday, December 21, 2007

Updates from December 16th vigil

(photo courtesy Jay Johnson-Castro)

This past Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the first vigil outside Hutto.

View KVUE's video coverage or News 8 out of Austin. Also, KXAN has footage, though Mac users may have a hard time viewing it.

Anyone with links to Univision's coverage or other media, please let me know.

Read Greg Moses' full article in CounterPunch.

In an act of civil disobedience on Sunday marking the first anniversary of protests against the imprisonment of children at the T. Don Hutto immigrant prison in Taylor, Texas, 100 people carried holiday toys and wrapping paper into the prison lobby. The action at sundown was the first time this year that protesters carried their message onto prison property.

Jaime Martinez, National Treasurer of the League of United Latin American Citizens called for the toy march shortly after 5:30 p.m. Carrying a bullhorn, Martinez informed the protesters that prison officials had made a promise to come out and get the toys at 5 p.m.

When Martinez called for people to take the toys to the children, the crowd pressed forward across a yellow line painted on the driveway marking official prison property and walked up to the lobby of the prison. Accompanying the protesters was LULAC National President Rosa Rosales.

"Bring the toys!" called Martinez from the prison door as volunteers grabbed boxes and bags of toys along with rolls of wrapping paper and rushed to the prison door.

One of the volunteers, Georgetown resident Peter Dana, later described carrying a box of toys through a metal detector. He said he thought about his experience years ago helping to engineer a metal detector.

and from David King of the Taylor Daily Press:

Singing Christmas carols and chanting, “Free the children!” hundreds of activists from Del Rio, San Antonio, Taylor and elsewhere passed the previous line of demarcation and crammed into the foyer. Employees of Corrections Corporation of America, which owns and operates the Taylor facility for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, opened the doors for the oncoming protesters then quickly made themselves scarce behind closed doors and dimmed lights.

For 20 minutes, the crowd cheered and sang while they delivered hundreds of toys to the children residing at T. Don Hutto.

More description of the vigil and Hutto at Texas Prison Bid'ness.

Thanks to all who came out to the vigil. This is is only the beginning..

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

8 year old girl separated from mother at Hutto

Yet another grim account from Hutto of a young child being separated from her mother. The 8 year old girl was left alone only guards and ICE staff for 4 days.

An 8 year old child. With no criminal record. Left alone with only guards to look over her. In a prison.

This is the American justice system.

Read full article by ANABELLE GARAY

Immigrant advocates have filed complaints over an 8-year-old girl who was separated from her pregnant mother by immigration authorities and left without her for four days at a detention center established to hold families together.

Attorneys with the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law sent a complaint on Monday to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees detention of immigrants. They also made a complaint to the Texas Department of Protective Services on Nov. 29, said Barbara Hines, a law professor who helps oversee the clinic.

Guards and ICE staff watched over the child for four days and the pair were reunited when they were deported, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said.

ICE officials have previously said detaining families at the facility is meant to help "children remain with parents, their best caregivers" while they are processed for deportation. They also told the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that parents would be at the facility with their children and would be responsible for their care, so state regulation wasn't needed.

But if the state's child care licensing division receives a complaint indicating child care is being provided, it could investigate, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"How the ICE Stole Christmas" Toy Drive Reception

Toy Drive for the kids at Hutto Detention Center
December 6th. 6-9pm.

1401 E 34th Street (on the corner of Lafayette and 34th)

Come as you are and bring an unwrapped toy, book, art supply (everything in its original packaging) or a $5-$10 cash donation. There will be adult beverages and sodas, and some yummy snacks. ALL proceeds from this party will be used to buy toys, books, and art supplies for the children imprisoned in the Hutto facility.
Questions should be directed to Bren at 512.296.0147 or cynthia.bren[at]

**If you are unable to attend the toy drive reception, but want to contribute any dollar amount to the toy/book/art supply fund (one dollar is not too small), please give any donations to ProCo's donation collectors: Laura Martin, Maritza Kelley, Caroline O'Connor, or Bren Gorman when you see them in class or in the halls. Also, you can leave donations in a marked envelope in Box 235. All cash donations will go to purchase additional items, and fill in the holes from what we don't collect at the toy drive. We will use the money to purchase educational toys, books, and art supplies to be given to the kids at Hutto for Christmas.

Thank you in advance for your generosity and Happy Holidays!

(Follow link for info on toy recalls this holiday season)
This LBJ event is co-sponsored by the Progressive Collective, the ACLU, and spearheaded by LBJ's own Bren Gorman, an active member of both organizations.

Also, a reminder: UT Law School Immigration Clinic has done a great job in their toy drive (they just delivered 450 toys and 150 books for the children at T. Don Hutto on Dec. 8th). It might be nice to also remember the adults who are also spending a Christmas in detention. Additional items allowed under the Settlement Agreement include donations of appropriate clothing, music and listening equipment, and funds for the commissary. Let's make sure that all family members receive something. A collection site will be available at the Vigil.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vigil at Hutto Prison, December 16th

The next vigil in support of the families detained in Hutto will be held Sunday, December 16th. It will mark exactly one year since the first vigil calling attention to this travesty. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

(Click here to download PDF version of the flyer to the right (appropriate for small handbills) or here for a more informative version of the flyer. Also available is a brochure outlining the arguments against Hutto and family detention. It contains all the information on the vigil. Please copy and distribute widely.)

Schedule of Events:

2:00pm- Walk From Heritage Park in Downtown Taylor (4th & Main) to T. Don Hutto Prison
3:00pm- Gather at T. Don Hutto (1001 Welch) for protest, music and chants.

Vigil Events:
4:00pm - Program with various speakers focusing on the immoral detention of families.
5:00pm- Candlelight Vigil and silent remembrance supporting families in detention.

We invite everyone with an interest in human rights to come and mark the first anniversary of our T. Don Hutto protests with a candle light vigil. A coalition of individuals and groups opposing the illegal and immoral detention of immigrant families with children at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, will gather to mark our first year of protests opposing the detention of families and International Migrants Day.

Se invita a todos con interes a los derechos humanos que vengan a notar el primer aniversario de los protestas contra T. Don Hutto con una vigilio con velas. Una coalicion de individuos y grupos opuestos a la ilegal e inmoral detencion de familias de inmigrantes con hijos estan en detencion en el centro, T. Don Hutto se juntan para notar nuestro primer año de protestas contra la detencion de familias y el dia internacional de migrantes.

Sponsored by: PODER, Texans United For Families, Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, Free the Children Coalition, Texas Indigenous Council, MADRES, LULAC District 7, Brown Berets of San Antonio, Tx, Southwest Workers Union, CAFHTA, Fuerza Unida.

For more information, contact:
Jose Orta (512) 365-2143 (Taylor) orta_jose[at]
Bob Libal (512) 971-0487 (Austin) boblibal[at]
Antonio Diaz (210) 396-9805 (San Antonio) texasindigenouscouncil[at]
Jina Gaytan (210) 884-8597 (San Antonio)

For informations on caravans to the Vigil:
From San Antonio, contact the LULAC National office at (210) 733-5454.
From Dallas, contact Beth beth.freed[at] or (214)684.3773

(The Dallas Caravan of Care Part Dos will leave on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. We will most likely return to Dallas between 9 and 10 p.m. Children are welcome and encouraged to participate in this civic duty.
Please meet at the Islamic Center of Irving, 2555 Esters Rd. in Irving. Click here for a map.)

From Austin: The caravans meet at the LBJ School's parking lot at the southwest corner of Red River and Dean Keaton. Caravans will be departing at 1pm and 3pm. The 1pm caravan will get you there in time for the walk, and the 3pm caravan will get you there in time for the vigil from 4-6pm. Everyone should be able to be back to austin by 7pm.


Monday, November 19, 2007

'Last Sunday' at Ruta Maya Coffee House, Austin, TX

Sunday, November 25, 6:30 p.m.
Last Sunday at Ruta Maya Coffee House
Austin, TX

The "Last Sunday" event in November, with host Sean Tate, will focus on progressive responses to the often reactionary hysteria around immigration issues.
The gathering will feature speakers from the Workers Defense Project - , an Austin worker center that helps low-wage immigrant workers who face unsafe working conditions and predatory employers. Maria Duque, an immigrant worker and WDP board member, and Project Director Cristina Tzintzún will talk about their work and the need for progressive action on the issue.

Also on the bill is a screening of a new short film, "Hutto: America's Family Prison," about the prison-like conditions at the T. Don Hutto "residential facility" in Taylor, TX. About 500 immigrants and asylum-seekers from around the world, more than half of them children, are detained at the prison. Organizers with Texans United for Families - , a coalition of advocacy and community groups opposed to detention of children and their families, will speak about the campaign to close T. Don Hutto.

Last Sunday co-founder Eliza Gilkyson will be back to perform, joined by co-founder Jim Rigby, who will offer spiritual reflections on immigration politics. The main music for the evening will be provided by Diasporic, Austin's one-of-a-kind funk/hip-hop/jazz/soul quartet.

Location: Ruta Maya Coffee House, 3601 South Congress.
Cost: $8 suggested donation to support the independent artists performing; no one turned away for lack of funds.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I apolgize for the text being so small. More information can be found here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Immigrant child separated from mom at family detention center

Click here for for article by Annabelle Garay.
An 8-year-old girl was separated from her pregnant mother and left behind for four days at a detention center established to hold immigrant families together while they await outcomes to their cases.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they had to transfer the Honduran woman because she twice resisted attempts to deport her and was potentially disruptive. ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said guards and ICE staff watched over the child after her mother was removed from the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, a former Central Texas prison where non-criminal immigrant families are held while their cases are processed.

But others are critical of the agency's handling of the case, saying it put the girl at risk and is yet another example of why the controversial facility should be closed.

"Here, it's the government itself that has the custody of this child and then leaves her without proper supervision," said Denise Gilman, who oversees the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, which provides legal services to Hutto detainees. "We certainly don't want to see it happen again."

The 28-year-old mother and child lost a bid for asylum and are back in Honduras. But Immigration Clinic attorneys plan to file a complaint with the federal government.

"There is something to complain about, because we're talking about a child's welfare," said Michelle Brane, director of the detention and asylum program at the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. "This is a perfect example of why family detention just doesn't work."

But Irma Banegas of Fort Worth said that's not what happened in the case of her sister and niece. She asked that they not be identified by name due to concerns for their safety in Central America.

Banegas said the mother and daughter told her they cried inconsolably after they were awakened and separated. "They've never been apart," Banegas said of her sister and her niece. Banegas said the pair fled Honduras earlier this year to escape an abusive relationship and growing gang violence in that country, including attacks that scarred her sister.

The agency attempted to deport the woman twice in October, but she wouldn't comply. ICE officials didn't reveal specifics about her efforts to resist deportation.

But as a result, Rusnok said, she was considered a high risk for disruptive behavior and moved to a South Texas detention center in Pearsall on Oct. 18.

"That kind of fear it strikes to the heart of all other children," Gilman said.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hutto: America's Family Prison

Austin Premiere of Hutto: America's Family Prison, a documentary film about the T Don Hutto facility. The screening will be accompanied by speakers on immigrant detention, former detainees, and the film maker.

Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Friday, Nov 16. 4 pm.
Room 3.109 in Sid Richardson Hall at the LBJ School of the University of Texas.
Near the corner of Red River and Dean Keaton. Sponsored by the Progressive Collective.
Special guest speakers on immigrant detention and filmmaker will be present.
Happy hour to follow at Scholtz Beer Garden at 1607 San Jacinto.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

T Don Hutto employs undocumented workers

This from Patricia Ruland's great article in the Austin Chronicle:

The dirty little secret is out: The T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center, a detention facility for immigrant families in Taylor, has employed undocumented workers, as well as contractors with criminal records. The revelation has put Williamson Coun­ty, which administers the center for owner-operator Correc­tions Corporation of America, in an embarrassing legal bind. The infractions, ironic as they are, were cited in an official reprimand of CCA by the U.S. Immigration and Cus­toms Enforcement and addressed to County Judge Dan Gattis on May 23. The reprimand only came to light in October, when WilCo commissioners began airing concerns about mounting liability. But it was an alleged sexual assault of a detainee by a guard on May 19 that was the most likely source of the county's jitters over liability. WilCo and CCA were to "ensure that such an incident not occur again," the reprimand stated.

Again, all this reminds us that Williamson County has its mind only on the potential liability T Don Hutto holds, not on the human conditions inside. And in their single-minded focus on the bottom line, they trip over their own empty morals, employing undocumented workers on one hand while locking them up and labeling them criminals on the other.

Williamson Co. commissioners continue CCA contract

Last Tuesday, the Williamson County commissioners voted unanimously to continue the county's contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest for-profit corrections company. After listening to speakers voice their opinion- including 9 speakers against continuing the contract and only one- the warden of T Don Hutto- speak in favor of its continuation, commissioners adjourned and, within minutes, voted unanimously.

At the last assembly the commission held on the subject, CCA shipped in bus loads of its own employees and their children to speak for continuing the contract to save their jobs. Apparently deciding such tactics were too overt (and downright tacky), they scaled back this time. However, whatever closed-door dealings have gone down in the meantime have proven more effective.

Taylor Daily Press reports:

As part of the new contract, CCA offered incentives to remain in the contract including a “no-limit” indemnity provision to the county in which CCA will assume all legal responsibilities and provide legal counsel for the county should a lawsuit arise.

CCA also offered a $250,000 letter of credit to cover legal expenses should the county lose or settle a lawsuit. At $5,000 per month, CCA will also pay for a county employ to act as a liaison between the county, CCA and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and give the county more oversight at the facility.

KXAN quotes commissioner Dan Gattis giving his validation on the county's vote:

"We feel like this is a better clause that gives us more protection from that standpoint and the amendment gives us the opportunity to have somebody on site that can help us understand the day-to-day operations,"

Still, nothing was said to concretely reassure that conditions for those held inside was on anybody's mind, nor that they would be improved from any of this.

(photo by Leah Fillion of the Taylor Daily Press)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Raymondville and Hutto walks. Oct 26-30

If you can, please join us for the Texas Super Weekend.

Grass roots from the Valley, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, from
other parts of the State, including the nucleus of Williamson county
residents will be taking part in these two walks.

Raymondville Walk II and Hutto Walk III. October 26-27 and
October 28-30 respectively. Please feel free to share this invitation
with others.

It will take "we the people" to cause a chain reaction of moral and
humane change in our state and country. There is no moral leadership at
the "top". And the moral bankruptcy is manifest all the way down the
political heap to the local county commissions. Moral leadership must
come from the grassroots and work its way up. It will take our
individual and collective passion and reasoning to infuse courage into
the elected officials to do the right thing.

Thanks to MapQuest...below are detailed and precise directions for
Raymondville Walk II and Hutto Walk III.

Click here for MapQuest directions for Raymondville, or here for Taylor.

If you plan on walking any significant distance, please seriously
consider wearing a good broad brimmed hat, comfortable walking or
athletic shoes, and plenty of fluids. We will have a support vehicle

For Raymondville:

October 26. 9:00am (Friday)
Press Conference at Harlingen Travel Center at 9:00am
9:30am Start Raymondville Walk II
Start address: 2021 W Harrison Ave Harlingen, TX 78552

1. Head west on W Harrison Ave toward US-77 N - 138 ft
2. Turn right at US-77 N - 0.1 mi
3. Take the ramp on the left onto US-77 N - 15.6 mi
Arrive at: Expressway 77 N/US-77 at FM-498

October 27. 10:00am (Saturday)
1. Start at Expressway 77 N/US-77 from FM-498 - 4.8 mi
2. Turn left at FM-3168 - 0.5 mi
3. Arrive at: Raymondville Internment-Concentration Camp for Noon Vigil.
that can carry the beverages and hopefully another vehicle that can
shuttle folks when necessary.

For Taylor (Hutto walk):
October 28. Noon (Sunday)
Press Conference at Hutto Prison Camp at Noon
1:00pm Start Hutto Walk III
Start address: 1001 Welch Taylor, TX 76574

1. Head east on Welch toward Howard St
2. Turn left at W Oak St
3. Head east on W Oak St toward TX-95
4. Turn left at TX-95
5. Arrive at: TX-29
October 29. 9:00am (Monday)
1. Head west on TX-29 toward CR-337 - 12.9 mi
2. Arrive at: Georgetown Inner Loop and TX-29

October 30. 8:00am (Tuesday)
1. Head south on Georgetown Inner Loop toward Stonehedge Blvd - 2.0 mi
2.Arrive at: 301SE Inner Loop Georgetown, TX 78626
Williamson County Annex and Williamson County Commissioners Court...9:30

Participating organizations:
Coalition in Defense of the Community (Houston)
Pax Christi (Brownsville)
Grass Roots Leadership (Texas)
LULAC (National-Regional-Local)
Cesar Chavez March for Justice (National)
Dallas Peace Center (Dallas)
MADRES (Texas)
Freedom Ambassadors (National-state-local)
Veterans for Peace (Rio Grande Valley)
ARISE (Rio Grande Valley)
CASA (Rio Grande Valley)
CAIR (Dallas)
CAFHTA (Dallas)
Williamson County T. Don Hutto Opposition Group
East Williamson County Democratic Party Club
Communications of America, National Rep. Currie Hallford
Ralph Isenberg

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Doors remain open at Hutto

From Lisa Faulkenberg of the Houston Chronicle:

Maybe it was the international media scrutiny. Maybe it was the 10 federal lawsuits alleging harmful conditions. Perhaps it was the case earlier this year of a guard having sex with a detainee.

Whatever the motivating factor, Williamson County has apparently concluded that helping the federal government detain immigrant parents and children in a converted medium-security prison is a risky business, one to which the county no longer wants a part.

The news at first seemed to signal the end to the saga at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Taylor. It seemed the perfect opportunity for federal immigration officials to relocate families to a more humane, homelike environment or increase the use of electronic monitoring and other effective, less-expensive alternatives to detention, as congressional committees have advised.

Immigration officials could finally close the door on a facility that has become a public relations nightmare and a liability to our country's human rights record.

But instead the county says it will keep the facility open. County officials say they don't want to be held liable for what happens under CCA's 'watch', yet will not acknowledge that it is a fundamentally flawed and immoral policy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hutto labeled a liability by County Government

More information on the reasoning the county is giving for the projected termination of the CCA contract.

From the Austin American-Stateman:

Williamson County agreed to enter the contract last year, but the Commissioners Court's newly elected members now say it might have tied them to responsibilities the county doesn't want.

County Judge Dan A. Gattis, chairman of the court, said he and county attorneys started discussing the contract after they received a letter a few months ago from the federal government that inquired about the county's knowledge of a maintenance problem at the center. He said knowing about maintenance issues and the everyday happenings at the center was "not our job."

"The problem is the liability. We're in the middle of the contract, but we have very little control of what happens at this facility," Gattis said. "Anything could happen over there."

Updates on termination of CCA contract

Today the San Antonio Statesman reports:

..In a meeting Tuesday, county commissioners instructed their lawyer to draw up letters to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CCA to inform them that the county plans to end the contract in one year.

County commissioners will make the departure official when they vote to approve the contract-termination letter next week.

Commissioners were not available for comment Tuesday, but in a statement, they indicated their motive was business, not politics.

"This action is not about immigration, it is about the county's potential liability as the administrator of this contract for a facility that we do not own or operate," County Judge Dan Gattis said in the statement.

County leaders will also seek to hold CCA responsible for reimbursing the county for potential legal fees it may incur in future lawsuits against the detention center. They also asked that the sheriff dispatch a deputy to act as a monitor inside the prison, at CCA's expense.

While this is definitely reason to celebrate, what exactly is going to happen to Hutto and those inside is not yet clear. It does not sound like it will close, though there's been no public discussion on who will be running it.

The County Commission will vote on the termination letter next Tuesday, October 9, at their 9:30am meeting. All are encouraged to attend to show support for ending the CCA contract.

Williamson Co. Commissioners to vote on terminating CCA contract

Word has just come out that the Williamson County Commissioners are to recommend terminating the contract between the county and CCA.

What this means for the T Don Hutto and the people held inside is unsure, but this is an exciting first step.

KLBJ reports:

Williamson County will be ending its involvement in running an immigrant detention center in Taylor. This morning, the Williamson County Judge and Commissioners voted to terminate the county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), effective a year from today. Subsequently, the county’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), effective a year from today, October 2, 2008.

The American Statesmen adds:

Saying that the facility has become a liability for the county, commissioners voted to give notice to CCA that the county will end the contract within one year, effective today.

The county's contract with CCA, in which the county receives a fee for each person housed at the facility, had previously been set to expire Jan. 31, 2009.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Protest calls for closure of T. Don Hutto

By Leah Fillion

Organizers planning a two-day walk to address county

Following a walk from Heritage Park downtown to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a small group of protesters gathered Saturday to speak out against the detainment of immigrants and their children at the facility.

This was the first vigil following a settlement late August in a lawsuit against the federal government that callled for improved living conditions for immigrant children being detained at T. Don Hutto.

The 512-bed facility, owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, was remodeled and reopened in May 2006 under contract to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service as a detention center for families seeking asylum.

Jose Orta, a Taylor resident and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said that while the settlement has brought some improvements to the living conditions of the inmates, he and others will continue to gather in protest every month until there are no children held there.

“I think things are better (since the settlement)... but ultimately the issue is that children are still in prison,” he said.

Antonio Diaz with the Free the Children Coalition in San Antonio said one improvement is that activists will be allowed into the facility but the criteria around the agreement it is still uncertain. He hopes that this will enable an open dialogue between CCA and activists concerning to detainment of immigrants.

Orta said one alternative to detainment could be the use of ankle bracelets. Orta said it costs $7,300 per person each month at full capacity to detain someone. An ankle bracelet would cost $600 per person each month and would allow immigrants to work within the community and their children to attend public schools.

“These people have not committed crimes,” Orta said. “They shouldn't be held like prisoners.”

But the ultimate hope, he said, would be to see the facility shut down. That is why, on Oct. 16, protesters from several grassroots organizations will be walking from the facility to Georgetown to address the commissioners of Williamson County.

Williamson County and CCA have a lease agreement in which the county agrees to subcontract facility operations to CCA. In exchange, CCA receives payment of about $2.8 million from ICE to house up to 512 inmates. The county also receives an administrative fee of $1 per inmate held at the facility.

The county signed a two-year contract with CCA, which will expire in January 2009. Orta said the protesters will request that the county end its contract with CCA as soon as possible.

“Without the contract with the county, CCA will be in limbo,” Orta said. “It is my hope that if we continue to protest, we can (convince the commissioners to) end the contract and shut them down,” Orta said.

Click here for link to original article.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

San Francisco muralist raises awareness on Hutto

Hutto Detention Facility: Local activist devotes mural to detained children David Antonio Carini, Jul 27, 2007 A Mission District activist has painted a mural in hopes of drawing attention to the abuse of immigrant children at a detention facility in Texas.

“I hope to inform and encourage action from my neighbors against the ICE intimidation on the streets,” said Pati Sanchez who devoted the mural to the dislocated children and families at the center. Clippings of the faces and words of the children are superimposed over the red paint scattered wall outside Sanchez’ apartment on Alabama and 20th Streets.

About 200 children captured through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are being held at the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas.

They wear prison garb and are confined to their cell for 12 hours a day, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They do not receive proper schooling or adequate medical treatment.

“There’s no pediatrician. Nurses don’t care if babies are sick. They treat us like we’re nothing,” said Egle Baubonyte, 15-year-old detainee, in a statement filed against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2007.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on March 6, 2007 against DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff for the inhumane treatment of 17 minors at the facility. Ten children have been released to families in the U.S. and Canada, but others like Suzanna Rodriguez Blanco, 12, remain. Her crime is seeking political asylum in the U.S. after the assassination of her father, a professor in Venezuela who vigorously opposed Hugo Chavez.

The mistreatment of minors at Hutto and other facilities is illegal. According to the 1997 Flores vs. Meese settlement, child detainees should be released promptly to family members, kept in the least restrictive setting possible, and guaranteed basic health and education.

In an October 23 affidavit, a pregnant Nicaraguan woman claimed that she was not given a prenatal exam for months. She was later diagnosed with a kidney infection and was not prescribed any medication, but instead was told to drink more water.

“Detention centers are a money making industry that inflict trauma and abuse onto incarcerated parents and children,” said Sanchez who hopes to illuminate a tolerant public on the actual purpose of these facilities.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owns the 512-bed Hutto facility along with several other immigrant detention centers. ICE provides publicly traded CCA about $2.8 million each month for operating expenses, according to the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). The number of immigrant beds reserved by ICE in for-profit CCA prisons has increased 350 percent since 1994.

CCA stock rose 750 percent in the last five years, and as a result of numerous anti-immigration laws and budgets passed by the Bush Administration, ICE raids have grown exponentially in the same time period. The raids have disrupted about 20,000 people since May 2006, of which many are children.

“It’s like a dream to come home,” Canadian born Kevin Yourdkhani, 9, told the Toronto Star. “That place was horrible. I cried and screamed every day. I can’t wait to go back to school.”

On April 10, a Texas federal court found that the ACLU is highly likely to prevail in the trial against the Hutto facility. There are several detention facilities like Hutto and CCA plans to open more in the next few months. ♦

Click here to see original article

Monday, September 17, 2007

Vigil in Taylor, TX set for Sat. 29 Sept.

When: Saturday Sep 29, 2007
at 10:00 AM

Where: Heritage Park/T.Don Hutto Prison
Main and 4th/1001 Welch St
Taylor, TX 76574
United States

Walk to Free the Children. Begins at Heritage Park (Main and 4th) in Taylor, Texas and concludes at the T. Don Hutto Prison where there will be a Vigil/Protest/Rally.

We ask you to come to Taylor on the 29th of Sept. to Heritage Park at 10:00 AM for a gathering and small cookout at the park, followed by our Freedom Walk through Taylor and on to the Protest Vigil in front of Hutto Prison from 1PM until 4PM.

Heritage Park is located at 4th and Main in Taylor.

We must keep protesting in front of Hutto. It is what has brought attention to the plight of the imprisoned asylum seeking families.

Please come and lend your support even if it is only for a short while. Your being there makes a difference. It is the small efforts of many that will make this effort successful.

ACLU settlement

The ACLU has been involved in litigation to improve the conditions inside TDH for several months. They recently reached a settlement with officials which will ameliorate the conditions inside, though it still remains an inappropriate environment for children, and a questionable choice for family detention at all levels.

For more information, please consult the ACLU's statement on the settlement, Texas Prison Bid'ness, the Women's Commission press release, or Houston Chronicle's news briefing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Basic Background of T. Don Hutto facility

T. Don Hutto Residential Facility is a converted minimum-security prison located in Taylor, Texas used to house families- including children as young as nursing babies- detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Both the structure itself and the methodology of the detention inside are based on the penal system model. This creates a situation in which people with nothing but civil violations against them- and, in the case of the children and asylum seekers, not even that- are housed in a prison environment and handled as convicted felons. Hutto re-opened as the family detention center in summer of 2006.

Hutto is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private, for-profit corrections company that has consistently denied outside monitors in to access conditions inside. Reports from former detainees indicate poor food quality, sub-par education, mental and health services, abuses of power by guards, and a general culture of fear and intimidation.

Hutto is the first family detention facility of its kind in the US. It was created as a prototype, and future plans in the realm of family detention will be based on how Hutto fares. Local organizing and national litigation have so far forced the Department of Homeland Security and CCA to make improvements to conditions inside Hutto. Only continued pressure will force the government to re-evaluate its policies on family detention and prevent future 'Huttos' from being built.