Today county higher ups will make their most controversial annual decision: whether or not to continue the operation of T. Don Hutto Residential Facility.
The facility draws lines in this community between those who support the detention of those who enter the country illegally and those appalled that our government would keep children in a prison.
In its third year in Taylor, the former medium-security prison is now a lightning rod for the ACLU, who accuses the facility of violating immigrants’ civil rights, and LULAC, who seeks to defend the rights of a prison population whose vast majority is Hispanic or Latino.
It is not my place to pass judgement on the facility or the policies that brought it into existence. Each side’s argument holds merit.
America is a nation of immigrants. Our economy relies on the low-cost labor of illegal immigrants. How can we hold these people behind bars?
Yet with the challenges of a country that faces psychotic insurgents hell bent on causing destruction inside our borders, how can we not detain those who enter it illegally?
Locally, the question of revenue comes to mind. The facility brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue for the city and the school district. It provides well paid jobs for unskilled workers. Corrections Corporation of America has offered continued annual raises to Hutto employees at wages that are more than competitive with typical jobs that do not require a college degree.
But is the financial upside nothing more than selling our morals one tax dollar at a time?
No matter what you call it, T. Don Hutto is a prison. It has 12-foot fences strung with razor-sharp barbed wire. And it is designed for families. Not criminals. Not one immigrant currently housed there is guilty of any other crime than wanting to be an American.
To its credit, the facility has made improvements over its dubious beginnings. It has been redecorated to appear more kid friendly. Detainee turnaround has reduced greatly. Yet some of those improvements were the result of a law suit filed by the ACLU and The University of Texas Law School.
The current freedoms of the facility should have been in place at its opening. Government should not have been forced into treating these children ethically, it should have led the way.
And since then, the facility has continued to linger ominously. Immigrations Custom Enforcement continues to keep security as tight as a snare drum. Reporters are let in once annually.
Even when rarely blessed with positive press, the facility remained closed. In one instance I had a heated back and forth to get in and take a bland and benign photo of a former employee who painted cartoon caricatures on the cinder block walls. In the end, a staff member of the prison ended up taking that photo. It was pretty bad.
Maybe it’s the reporter in me, but the more I’m kept out of a place, the more I feel like something is going on inside that ICE does not want people to see.
Regardless, I do not envy the decision commissioners make today. I expect scores of protesters and people to curse the commissioners’ decision, whatever it is.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
December 24, 2008: The Williamson County Sun* gave extensive front page coverage of Saturday's Toy Drive, including interviews with former detainees who have received asylum and now live in the United States. As you can see from the pictures, hundreds of toys were delivered. But as Denia Borjas points out, received donated toys pales in comparison to receiving gifts from family in the comfort and safety of a home.
The article also notes some of CCA's intimidation tactics--driving past protestors at high speeds, filming the protest, and the inspection of toys prior to delivery. According to the article, there is still some doubt about whether the detainees would receive the toys. If you have information regarding toy delivery, please share it with us...
Thank you to each and all who donated. Please continue to support the closing of Hutto in our "100 events in the first hundred days" campaign! (Check this blog for more information on that in the coming weeks, and contact us if you would like to schedule a film screening, vigil, forum, letter writing, or other event.)
*There is no online version of this article available... please click on the image to view and download a scanned version of the article.
December 22, 2008: New America Media's Roberto Lavalo gives us some "Hope for the Holidays" that begins with the Hutto toy delivery and vigil last Saturday, recounts the Chicago Republic Window factory occupation, and ends with workers' protests for backpay at a San Francisco poultry processings plant. Interviewing Grassroots Leadership's Luissana Santibañez, he writes...
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
You looked the other way when a detainee was raped by a CCA employee. You were unphased when U. S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks found it inexplicable that defendants spent untold amounts of time, effort, and taxpayer dollars to establish the Hutto family detention program, knowing that a federal ruling required immigration authorities to house children in the least restrictive conditions possible.
You ignored the testimony of the detained children and the results of investigations by reputable organizations such as Lutheran Social Services.
Your concern has not been that abuses were occurring but that the county could be held liable. Rather than showing concern for human rights abuses, you chose to add an indemnity clause requiring CCA to pay for an attorney to defend the county in a lawsuit resulting from these abuses.
A speaker at Sunday's vigil just returned from meeting with Sen. Kennedy's staff about T. Don Hutto, one met personally with Pres. elect Obama about T. Don Hutto. Several weren't with us because they were speaking in Washington D.C. and NYC about T. Don Hutto.
As of January 20th, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Michael Chertoff will no longer be in Washington to protect their friends in the private for-profit prison industry. We will have an administration that has vowed to uphold international law, that respects the judicial system, Congress, and the Constitution.
CCA's lawyers will work to protect CCA, not the county, from liability for our complicity in the inhumane treatment of these innocent women and children.
If you cannot find it in your heart to release these children, then look at your financial responsibilities to the county. Protect us from the financial repercussions that will surely come if you renew the Agreement between Williamson County and CCA to imprison women and children who ask for our help and instead are thrown in a private for profit prison.
From Mary Ellen Kersch:
Each Tuesday, this meeting opens with a pledge to our flag, appropriately declaring “liberty and justice for all, ” and that we are “one nation, under God.” That’s followed with a prayer, submitting to the will of God and the teachings of Christ. But when anything relating to T Don Hutto is on the agenda, this body seems to go into an amnesia state and ends up acting in contradiction to those standards of good government and brotherly love. The Golden Rule is regularly broken whenever the corrupt contract with ICE and CCA is under review.
T Don Hutto family prison does not exist for national security interests, or out of a sense of justice or patriotism; it’s driven by greed. Simple avarice. This contract personifies the corrupt business model of exploiting the very weakest among us to further enrich the most wealthy. At taxpayer expense.
Imprisoning innocent children of God, charged with no crime, is flat out un-American. It’s also un-Christian. (What WOULD Jesus do?)
I’ve previously told you a bit about my own son-in-law’s experience with ICE. That uncontrolled bureaucracy failed to follow their own rules, which they acknowledged, but then just decided to go ahead and punish the victim of their own sloth, anyway. ( I guess maybe the paperwork would have been too much trouble for them.) My family spent several terrified months as a result, during which ICE could have hauled him off, deported him, and/or imprisoned him in T Don Hutto. And it was THEIR error!
Maybe if he’d been a family member of someone on this dais, you’d be less complacent about this corruption for corporate profit. At taxpayer expense.
The fact is that there are humane, effective, and moral-- and far more “Republican”—i.e., “cost-effective,” alternatives to the T Don Hutto, for–profit- prison-for-non-criminal-immigrants. While you didn’t initiate this activity, your failure to require any of those alternatives makes you accomplices.
Well, here’s your chance for redemption: You can vote to remove us from this unholy union and notify the world that we do not put innocent people-- or children-- in prison in Williamson County, Texas.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Democracy Now's Amy Goodman discussed the nomination with Aarti Shahani of Families for Freedom, a NYC-based advocacy group. While Shahani notes that we should be very pleased with the change in security leadership, she also points out that Napolitano has led the expansion of 287(g) programs, lobbied DHS for escalations in immigration enforcement in Arizona, and cooperated with the notoriously racist Maricopa County Sherriff Arpaio. You can listen, watch, or read their discussion here.
In 2007, Napolitano asked the country not "to forget the border" in an NYTimes op-ed. There she argued for comprehensive immigration reform--especially a temporary worker program--but criticized proposals for two year work permits and requiring undocumented migrants to "touchback" in their home countries before getting visas.
According the Arizona Daily Star, the governor recently called for National Guard troops to return to the border. Chertoff decided that they were no longer necessary and pulled the troops last summer. Guard troops have provided support for ICE and CBP officers for years, but their presence has raised some questions about the role of military personnel in civilian life and the status of posse comitatus, which limits the role of the military in domestic law enforcement and policing.
For a critical review of Napolitano's gubernatorial legacy on more than just immigration, read Michael Lacy of the Village Voice.
The Valley Morning Star reports:
The indictment charges Cheney with illegally profiting, by virtue of his office, from $85 million in investments in the Vanguard Group. The group invests in companies that house federal detainees. He also is charged with exerting pressure on how much prisons are paid to house detainees. ...Last summer, Raymondville city council supported a bid for a new family detention center there, though ICE has not yet awarded those contracts. Needless to say, this series of indictments raises serious concerns about the viability of any facility that would house small children and families. (For more about these bids, see our previous blog posts.)
The indictment alleges that Gonzales used his position to stop investigations into assaults committed in the private prison managed by the GEO Group in Willacy County.
The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp., was also indicted on murder charges involving the 2001 death of an inmate killed in a Raymondville prison. The indictment accuses GEO of allowing inmates to beat Gregorio De La Rosa Jr., 33, of Laredo, to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. ...
Lucio is charged with profiting from public office when he acted as a consultant for Management and Training Corp., CorPlan Corrections, Aguirre Inc., Hale Mills Corp., TEDSI Infrastructure Group, Inc., and Dannenbaum Engineering Corp.
The case will be interesting because, as Will Bunch of Philly.com and ABC News blogger Jan Greenberg, point out, the county doesn't have jurisdiction over federal crimes. In addition, the DA, Juan Angel Guerra, is in his last lame duck days as DA for the county. Further, four of the eight defendants participated in an earlier suit of Guerra, begging accusations of political vindictiveness. The Willacy County Sherriff even responded with a suit against Guerra, charging retaliation. According to Guerra, however, he has been investigating this case under the radar for some time.
It is unfortunate that these indictments emerge from such a wild political climate because the conflict of interests for public officials, serious problems with detainee care, and massive goverment spending on the incarceration for non-criminal violations should demand the attention of policy-makers and judge far beyond South Texas. The indictment hearings have been set for December 1, and we'll follow up here as soon as we can.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
On Sunday, December 7, at 4 p.m. a peaceful coalition of individuals and groups opposing Willliamson County's participation in the detention of asylum seekers will gather on the Williamson County Courthouse steps in downtown Georgetown.
Although federal law requires the "least restrictive setting possible" for immigrant families, in 2006 Williamson County contracted with Corrections Corporation of America, a private for-profit prison company, to incarcerate non-criminal women and children in the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor. The contracts between ICE, Williamson County, and CCA are up for renewal in January. Please help us show Williamson County, Homeland Security, and the private prison industry that imprisoning innocent children will no longer be tolerated in the United States of America.
We will meet in the parking lot on Austin Ave. between 4th and 5th Streets in Georgetown at 3:30 p.m. and walk 3 blocks to the County Courthouse to hear community leaders speak in support of alternatives to the incarceration of families awaiting asylum or immigration hearings.
There are currently 385 detainees in T. Don Hutto including 92 children. As a result of the lawsuits brought by ACLU and the UT School of Law Immigration Clinic, detainees are now allowed to wear their own clothing. Thanks to a recent intervention by the UT School of Law Immigration Clinic, ICE has also agreed to allow detainees to use phone cards given to them rather than having to buy the cards through CCA.
If you would like to bring a gift to the vigil, suggestions include new toys in their original packaging (and made in the USA), books, music players, music, lotions, shampoos, candy, phone cards, and clothing such as sweaters and warm socks.
For further information or to sign up to speak, please contact Sherry Dana at sdana787[ at] gmail [dot] com.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
This bill followed the Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act (S. 3594) introduced by Senators Menendez (D- NJ) and Ted Kennedy (D- MA). This bill takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security / Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that have hit the headlines in the past few months.
And earlier this year, Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act (H.R. 5950), which responded to the 82 detainee deaths in detention highlighted by the New York Times and Washington Post.
Why are these bills important? ICE has developed Family Residential Standards, which we have covered on this blog, and Adult Detention Standards. These serve as guidance documents for the government and non-governmental contractors that run detention facilities. Yet, the only real oversight remains internal to ICE-- that is, ICE inspects ICE facilities. The issue of internal oversight arose during the Hutto lawsuit, and the government repeatedly argued that there was no need for external inspections. While the Hutto Settlement contained court oversight, those of you familiar with the Hutto Settlement will remember that this will end in August 2009, when the settlement expires.
The bills above are Congress' efforts to give these standards "teeth," and hopefully set the bar a little higher for the treatment of detainees.
Numerous organizations have published statements, press releases, and reports on these bills. A few of them are:
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
(Dr. Maria F. Perez Solla translated this decision for the Detention Watch Network listserv.)
Jurisprudence (Rennes) : Annulation d’une prolongation de rétention pour une famille avec un enfant
Cour d’appel de Rennes (271/2008) du 29 septembre 2008, qui annule la prolongation de rétention sur l’article 3 de la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme :
« Considering that the means employed constitute a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that, asserts that nobody can be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. As to fall within this provision, bad treatment should reach a minimum of seriousness, considering the whole circumstances of the case, in particular, the nature and the context of the treatment, the duration, the physical and mental effects, as well as the sex, age, and health condition of the victim ;
Considering that the State indicated that the placement of the spouses S. and their children at the detention center Saint-Jacques de la Lande, counting with facilities especially prepared for receiving families, does not constitute inhuman treatment and that due to his age, the child, who has never been separated from his mother, does not suffer psychological trauma in the measure that he can not realize his situation ;
Even in the case that there is a space especially reserved to receive families, the detention center remains a closed place where foreigners are retained, considering their isolation from French territory, for a duration of maximum 32 days; that, in this particular case, the fact of keeping, in such a place, a young family mother, her husband, and their one year old baby, constitutes inhuman treatment in the sense of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, because :
- - First, the child is suddenly subtracted, since his small age, from a normal and appropriate course of life: his parents' house - and is imposed, even temporarily, life conditions completely irregular for a one year old baby ;
- - Secondly, the big suffering, moral and psychical, caused to the mother and the father, suffering that, due to its nature, importance and duration
(the renewal of detention requested by the authority of 15 days), reaches the level of seriousness required as to apply the above-mentioned text.
Considering, moreover, that the suffering caused is manifestly disproportional to the goal persecuted, that is, to conduct the deportation of the family S., moreover, when those interested count with housing in Vitré...".
October 1st 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The website guides you through an (mock) undercover investigation of the death of Boubar Bah, a 52-year-old man from Guinea who passed away under ambiguous circumstances while in detention.
Besides the interactive tools, the website includes great information about detention issues in the U.S., ways to take action, and education tools. Check it out...
Thursday, October 2, 2008
To learn more about the OAS investigation of Hutto, read this report submitted to the OAS by Gilman and the UT Immigration Law Clinic. The report details family detention policy and the human rights problems documented there. A nice, short backgrounder on the subject...
Melissa Del Bosque, from the Texas Observer, blogged about the border wall investigation, as well.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
To become a "follower", look at the sidebar on the right. It's the third down, underneath Upcoming Events. Click on "Follow this blog" and they'll take you through it!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Texas Indigenous Council in conjunction with San Antonio musicians and other community groups will be holding a vigil this Saturday, August 16th, in Taylor, Texas. Demonstrators will gather at 12:00 noon at Heritage Park where they will rally until 1 pm, followed by walk for the children to T. Don Hutto detention center for the protest, vigil, and music from San Antonio artists. Please contact Antonio Diaz at (210) 396-9805 for more information and caravan times from San Antonio.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A Chancery Court judge ruled today that Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America has to follow the state’s public records laws and open their files for public viewing.
CCA, which operates the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility and six other detention facilities across the state, said they were a private company that did not have to comply with public records requests.
Alex Friedmann, vice president of the Private Corrections Institute and an adversary of a CCA attorney’s nomination to a federal judgeship, brought the lawsuit after the company denied a request for records about lawsuits and settlements they were part of.
Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled that CCA was a “functional equivalent” to a governmental entity, because their operation of jails and prisons are essential governmental functions and most of their revenues are taxpayer-funded.
Bonnyman ordered CCA to make all their records available for inspection during business hours so long as they still have them and they aren’t exempted from public records laws because of court orders or seals.
CCA attorney Joe Welborn said they plan to appeal the ruling.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
When you talked to Senator Barack Obama, what did he say?
He said in his first year as president he will bring immigration reform to the very forefront and that he will not run away from the issue if it gets politically uncomfortable. That’s the key. I asked him about Hutto. I looked him straight in the eye, and said, ‘I’m from Texas, there are prisons for profit that are holding families who do not have any documents. There are American children who are behind bars because Homeland Security put them there.’ He said, ‘I will address that issue as soon as I get elected President. We’re going to take care of those issues.’ He was very serious on the fact that he would make a change in immigration during his presidency.
And did you get the same feeling from McCain?
I asked him the same question and McCain said, ‘I cannot address that right now, until I become President. But that issue is not an issue that has a lot of support.’
That’s all he said?
What about the millions of immigrant workers and families in America? Are they not support?
He said he won’t address it until people start pushing the issue. But right now he can’t do anything about it. There is not question in my heart and those that heard Obama speak that he is speaking to the bread and butter issues that we need to change in America.
So do you think as the Latino community begins to rise and become more and more important in voting, do you think issues like Hutto will be brought to the forefront?
Definitely. We made [Hutto] an issue with LULAC’s press conference, now there are many organizations all over the United States supporting us. Our people are the largest growing population in America. We are making a difference and that’s why [candidates] are courting us. I believe that’s also why they are making it so difficult to get citizenship. They don’t want us to vote. The want to make it so difficult for us to become citizens and for us to vote, because once we vote, we’re going to have a brown-faced president in the United States in the future.
So what we are seeing with Hutto and immigrant criminalization is like the Jim Crow laws?
Yes. Those laws are racist and deprive people of their rights. No taxation without representation. So once we have legal taxation, we’re going to have legal representation, not only in the school boards, but in state legislation to governors to the Presidency of the United States.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Last week, Grassroots Leadership, Southwest Workers Union, No Wall-Big Bend, and PODER protested outside of Rep. Ciro Rodriguez's office in San Antonio. Congressman Rodriguez had signed onto the SAVE Act, a bill that would increase family detention beds, expand immigration detention, and implement enforcement-only "solutions" to current inadequacies in the immigration system. The protestors demanded that Rodriguez reverse his support for the SAVE Act. (Photo courtesy of http://swunion.org/blog.html)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
- Lack of due process and violations of attorney-client privilege.
- The use of physical threats and intimidation to force detainees to sign papers.
- Mistreatment of detainees by guards and federal marshalls.
- Inadequate medical care, esp. emergency care.
- Inadequate treatment of mentally ill, esp. refugees who had been persecuted in their homelands.
- Insufficient quantities of food and incidents of food poisoning.
- Poor living conditions due to severe overcrowding.
- Language barriers to detainees.
Monday, July 7, 2008
. . .Within hours of the declaration of war on Japan, all Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans who were in the US were branded"alien enemies." Of the 120,000 men, women, elderly, and children of Japanese ancestry sent to interment camps, more than 60% were native-born citizens. According to the US Department of Justice's "Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II: Report to the Congress of the United States," within a few days after President issued Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527, 500 aliens of different ancestries were on a train with darkened windows bound for an undisclosed location in Montana.
While most historical comparisons concerning immigration and race before and after 9/11 focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the relevance of Mexican Repatriation remains vitally important for us to remember. Over the last century, migrant workers have been the most exploited class of workers in America. The concept of a guest worker program in this country is not new. More than 72,000 guest workers participated in the program from 1917 to 1921. In 1924, the government to discontinue the program and created the United States Border Patrol to locate and remove all non-citizens illegally. By 1931, it was time for the Mexicans to depart.
During the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930s, approximately 60 percent deported to Mexico were US citizens, including children born on the US. Both local and federal authorities did not consider the rights of the numerous citizens whom they deported. . . .
The current fervor against immigrant groups is eerily reminiscent to the anti-Mexican sentiments of the 1930s. FBI reports on domestic hate crimes after 2001 indicate that such crimes against Latinas and Latinos surged from 2003 to 2006. . .
Most people overlook the degree to which racial stereotypes might influence the public's perception on the targeted ethnic/racial group, in this case, Latina/os. Of the few articles written about the raids conducted by ICE, one could easily come to the conclusion that Latina/os continue to be coded in ways that conflate their identities with immigrants or foreigners, which means they would be presumptively subjected to immigration laws. . .
For the time being, the tenor of the current immigration debate has thus far not changed significantly since Mexican Repatriation or the interment of Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans. Too many non-Latino Americans believe that we are in the mist of an invasion that will lead to economic plight and crime-ridden streets. Political leaders and the media need to examine the facts and speak out.
As a nation, we must be most careful in times of severe national stress and not repeat the sins of the past. The true test of human progress is whether we have the wisdom to see our faults and the strength to acknowledge them. Until we admit this, perhaps legitimate discussions concerning safety and economic growth will lead to an honest approach to immigration reform.
Friday, July 4, 2008
The Detention Watch Network has released a new and improved interactive map of immigration detention. The map includes detention centers, community organizations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Offices, and Immigration Courts. A fantastic resource for public education!
Click here to learn more about immigrant detention.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Re: "There's a better way – ICE should not be accepting bids to build new family detention centers, says Barbara Hines," last Monday Viewpoints.
Since its inception, the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center has been a safe and humane alternative to separating the families who enter the country illegally.
Many positive changes have been made. Families have access to high-quality medical, mental health and dental care 24 hours a day. Children attend school seven hours a day with state-certified teachers who provide a curriculum based on state standards. There are many recreational and social activities for all residents and few restrictions on movement throughout the facility.
Many of the conditions mentioned in the column have not existed for some time. The razor-wire fence shown in the picture accompanying the column was removed more than a year ago. ICE has taken a proactive approach to enhancing the facility since it opened. Many of the improvements were in place, under way or planned before the lawsuit referred to in the column was filed.
--Marc J. Moore, field office director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, San Antonio
Now take action!
Please take the time today, if possible, to write a letter to the Dallas Morning News stressing the inappropriate nature of family detention and Hutto. Letters can be sent using the site's online form, and should be 50-200 words in length. Letters can include the following points:
2) Congress has called on ICE to fund alternatives to family detention, saying that detention of immigrant children and their families should be the last alternative, not the first. ICE should be listening to the wishes of Congress and implementing alternatives to detention rather than soliciting new family detention centers. These alternative to detention programs are effective at ensuring that immigrants return to their immigration hearings and are much less costly than detention.
Thank you for your continued efforts to end family detention and close the T. Don Hutto detention center.