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.