For Immediate Release: April 22, 2008
Contact: Bob Libal – (512) 971-0487
Texans United for Families calls for closure of Hutto and for less-restrictive alternatives to family detention
~ Advocacy coalition calls on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close T. Don Hutto detention center ~
Austin, TX – Texans United for Families, a coalition of Central Texas advocacy and community organizations, reacted today to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement press tour of the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. T. Don Hutto is a former medium-security prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The prison was re-opened as a family detention center in 2006 with a contract to detain families awaiting immigration proceedings.
"While we're happy that community activism and legal advocacy have forced better conditions at Hutto, a former medium-security prison run by a for-profit prison corporation is still no place for any child and their family," said Bob Libal, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership and a member of Texans United for Families. "Congress has said that detention of families is the last alternative, not the first. We call on ICE to follow Congress's wishes and implement more humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention of children and their families."
The American Civil Liberties Union, UT Immigration Law Clinic, and other representatives for families held at Hutto negotiated a settlement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August. The settlement ensures increased educational programming, children no longer be required to wear prison uniforms, and a Magistrate Judge performing periodic assessments of the prison, amongst other changes.
In November, media reported that an 8 year-old Honduran girl had been separated from her mother for four days while ICE took the mother to a different south Texas detention center. This, amongst other reports, including an alleged sexual assault by a guard that took place at the facility in June, raise questions about the appropriateness of Hutto as a safe place to maintain family unity. In January, Williamson County and Corrections Corporation of America agreed to a contract with ICE to hold up to 250 single female detainees in addition to the families already being held at T. Don Hutto.
Texans United for Families is a coalition of advocacy groups and community organizations including Grassroots Leadership, American Friends Service Committee, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Civil Rights Project, Workers Defense Project/Proyecto Defensa Laboral, People Organizing in Defense of the Earth and her Resources (PODER), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Texas Jail Project.