Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Information on ICE's New Family Detention Centers

Last week, we heard that ICE is soliciting bids for new family detention centers.  From the look of it, the bid solicitation should implement ICE's new Family Residential Standards. We will continue to follow the bidding process and keep you updated on any decisions about new facilities.  For now, here are some more details on what ICE would like the new centers to look like:

Exerpts from Solicitation Number HSCEDM-08-r-0005:

“This pre-solicitation is for the procurement of up to three (3) non-criminal family residential facilities with the capacity to house a maximum population of 200 residents each using minimal security for juveniles and their families in a safe and secure environment while in the custody of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is expected families may be comprised of a ratio of up to three (3) juveniles to every one (1) adult….The facility is to be in a least restrictive, non-secure setting but must meet all state welfare laws and education requirements related to operating family shelter type facilities…. Additionally, program and services provided should be able to: 

-meet state childcare licensing requirements and regulations (not necessarily licensed but licensable); 

-adhere to all state and local building codes; 

-adhere to all fire, health, and safety codes; 

-provide suitable living accommodations for residents; 

-provide for food, appropriate clothing, personal hygiene and grooming needs for residents; 

-provide a "least restrictive" environment for families consisting of adults and minors of all ages who are detained on the premises; 

-provide appropriate medical, mental health and dental care

-provide emergency health care services including a complete medical examination for all juveniles within forty-eight (48) hours of admission (excluding weekends and holidays) and within fourteen (14) days for adults; 

-administer appropriate immunizations to all juveniles; 

-administer prescribed medicines to all residents; 

-provide educational instruction for school aged juveniles in basic competencies as required by applicable state law (Monday through Friday); 

-provide library services in languages other than English; 

-provide both juveniles and adults recreational, leisure and acculturation activities and services; 

-provide access to religious services

-provide visitation with family and friends not residing at the facility; 

-provide phone access

-and securely maintain all case records as confidential.”

In addition to the official solicitation, the website includes guidance documents on building design, residential standards, quality monitoring and accountability, and staffing.  Attachment 2 covers building design criteria, and is particularly interesting, given this blog’s concerns about the use of a former prison for family detention.  The Master Plan gives 2 sample layouts for family residential facilities, a “campus” and a “single-building plan.

The campus model is “more rural than urban,” organized around “a centralized quad or green space.”   In addition, the administration building, through which visitors and detainees enter the facility, should be “non-institutional, warm, welcoming and incorporate such features as a gabled or sloped roof for a more residential style/appeal.”  The residental buildings should be arranged as follows:  

“The two resident living units should be located such that the front doors of the units open onto the quad/green space. The educational and indoor recreational program buildings also face onto the quad/green space and are easily accessible to the resident living units…. The site should provide numerous open/green space areas for both large and small group recreational and educational program opportunities to take place. Fenced-in play areas for toddlers are located directly adjacent to the living units, allowing for parent supervision.  Soccer, volleyball and basketball areas should be nearby but separated from the living units.  The main quad shall also provide small group gathering areas for the residents to gather or for staff to utilize for different program services.” (pg. 8)

The single building plan contains the same basic components as the campus plan, but in a single building, with green space around the building.  This plan is “more conducive to an urban site.”  This building is organized as follows:

“A centralized interior circulation spine acts as the organizer to which the components of the [facility] are attached.  The administrative functions are located near the front entry to the site. The appearance of the administration building should be non-institutional, warm, welcoming and incorporate such features as a gabled or sloped roof for a more residential style/appeal.  The resident living units are located along the main circulation spine and surround a common outdoor activity/program service area.  All of the resident services functions are also located along the main circulation spine, each having a designated entry or “store front” appearance, similar to a mall concept. The location of these functions will allow for easy access by residents.  The services located along the main spine include recreational and educational programs, resident services, visitation, health services, library and dining…. The site provides numerous open/green space areas for both large and small group recreational and educational program opportunities to take place.  Fenced in play areas for toddlers are located directly adjacent to the living units, allowing for parent supervision, while the soccer, volleyball and basketball areas are nearby, but separate from the living units.” (pg. 9)
Stay tuned for updates on the bidding process!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Upcoming Events: May 24, 25, and 28

Hutto Protest in Taylor

Saturday, May 24th

meets at Heritage Park at 11am, march leaves at noon, protest and music at T. Don Hutto from 1-4pm 

Musicians James Perez y Karnaval, Karma, Arma Musical, Xemilla, and hip-hop act Iztli will all perform. Sponsored by the Texas Indigenous Council, César E. Chávez March for Justice, MADRES, Amnesty International, LULAC, Code Pink, T5, Dialog Makers, Houston Sin Fronteras, and others.  For more information, contact Jina Gaytan (210) 396-9805 or Antonio Diaz (210) 396-9805.

Film Screenings in Taylor

Sunday, May 25th, 8pm

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 708 Sturgis Street, Taylor, TX

The East Williamson County Democratic Club invites you to "Documentaries Under the Stars" featuring The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez and Hutto: America's Family Prison, short films exploring the issue of immigration.  The films hope to spark a discussion about U.S. Immigration policy and the T. Don Hutto detention center.  America's Family Prison film-maker Matt Gossage and Iraq Veterans Against the War member Hart Viges will be on hand to lead the discussion. 

Austin Press Conference Opposing SAVE Act and More Family Detention Centers 

Wednesday, May 28th, 10am

Federal Building, 300 E. 8th St, Austin, TX

Texans United for Families is holding a press conference opposing the SAVE Act's provision to create more "Hutto-like" family detention centers around the country.  Local immigrant rights organizations, faith leaders, and advocacy groups have signed on to a national letter opposing the SAVE Act and will deliver that letter to Congresspeople in the U.S. Federal Building in Austin.  Thus far, the letter has been signed locally by Ponce Law Office, Grassroots Leadership, Texans United for Families, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, Proyecto Defensa Laboral, La Nueva Raza, LULAC, Texas Jail Project, Texas Civil Rights Project, American Friends Service Committee, Code Pink Austin, MADRES, and leaders from the faith and civil rights communities. Contact Bob Libal at blibal@grassrootsleadership.org or (512) 499-8111 for more information or to add your group to the list of signatories.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ICE plans 3 new detention centers

Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times reports that ICE has solicited bids for three more family detention centers, to house 600 men, women, and children:

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a call for proposals last month and set June 16 as the deadline. New facilities are being considered on both coasts and on the Southwestern border. The agency calls for minimum-security residential facilities that would provide a 'least restrictive, nonsecure setting' and provide schooling for children, recreational activities and access to religious services."

Ahilan Arulanantham, a staff attorney at the South California ACLU was quick to denounce ICE's plans, and recommended that families be allowed to post bond, wear electronic monitors or be part of intensive supervision programs.

For more information read ICE's bid.

Responses to T. Don Hutto Press Tour

We posted about the press tour earlier, and here are some responses to the subsequent media from the Austin-American Stateman

"Among the more than 100 changes made to make the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center, a former medium-security prison, more family-friendly was a paint job.

A prison with a fresh coat of paint is still a prison

Re: April 23 article “Officials tout family-friendly changes at Taylor detainee facility.”

I am pleased that the most egregious violations of human dignity at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center are being addressed, but fundamentally it is still a prison, and prisons are unsuitable solutions for detaining the children and families of nonviolent immigration status violators.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have to stop looking to incarceration solutions for the families and children affected by the recent upsurge in enforcement measures.



There are alternatives that are far more humane and less expensive, including keeping the detainees at home while wearing ankle bracelet devices. But this would not fill beds in the for-profit prison industry.



Although conditions have been greatly improved, thanks to community activism and the legal advocacy of several organizations, detention of children and their families at a for-profit former medium security prison is fundamentally not appropriate.

Congress has told ICE multiple times to implement less restrictive, more cost-effective alternatives to detention of children and their families.



Improvements have come after 18 months of protests, media scrutiny and a litigation settlement. Those improvements are welcomed, but ICE should not pat itself on the back and the media should not buy ICE’s claim that Hutto is now a “model” family prison.



It makes it sound like Disneyland for incarcerated delinquents. Call it what it is: a for-profit prison for women and children. This place, like so many other “new” institutions created in the last eight years, is a disgrace to humanity.



Daily Texan Op-Ed: Put for-profit detention centers on ICE

April 30. In an opinionated editorial in the Daily Texan, Ulylesia Thompson, Carla Bates, and Sarah Robinson argue that the costs of housing detainees in privately run facilities far outweigh the benefits:

"In 2007, the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) rounded up more than 30,000 immigrants in raids. While more than 186,000 immigrants were deported in 2006, an alarming 300,000 were detained in

immigrant detention centers, such as the T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor, in 2007 alone. According to ICE, the purpose of immigrant detention centers is to "detain and remove criminal and other deportable aliens ... in part of the strategy to deter illegal immigration and protect public safety."

Despite what ICE ostensibly promotes, these for-profit detention centers are not achieving their intended

goals, as they do not create a disincentive for coming to the U.S. The risk of crossing over illegally is a

small price to pay for the safety and high labor demand on the other side of the border. Additionally,

undocumented immigrants are often hesitant to report crimes to authorities due to the fear of being detained,

in which case detention centers may be hindering communities more than helping them.

Privatized detention centers are going up all over the United States as a way to deal with the growing number of undocumented immigrants. As a result, not only are we detaining immigrants in our country, but because of the move toward privatization, these facilities are able to make a profit from these prisoners. The industry leader, Corrections Corporation of America, has seen its stock price rise to as much as $22 a share, and in 2006 its revenue was $1.3 billion with profits of $105 million. According to industry experts, in order to make a profit these companies not only need to ensure that more prisons are built, but also need to keep them filled to an estimated 90-to 95-percent capacity rate. These for-profit detention centers demand immigrants' bodies and labor, and it is disturbing to think about how this demand will be met.

The immigrants sent to detention centers are often non-criminals who have had households in the U.S. for a number of years. Detained persons are locked in overcrowded facilities with often deplorable and unlivable conditions, such as a lack of access to sufficient food, clothing, medical care or basic necessities such as functioning showers and toilets.

Our nation is caught in a debate over the extent to which we suffer from the presence of undocumented workers in our country. The truth is that the U.S. has helped create this situation, relying on the immigrants' cheap labor to fill low-wage, low-skill jobs. How ungrateful a nation are we to criminalize people who have not committed crimes but have in many ways helped fuel the U.S. economy?

By privatizing detention facilities we have moved into an arena of not just holding these individuals in subpar facilities to prevent their disappearance in our country, which is the proposed reason for why these facilities are even necessary, but to exploit humans and use them for profit.The labor practices used in these prison companies to make a profit would be illegal under any other circumstance; however, we are not only allowing it but increasing our investment in these privatized facilities. While inmates in any prison facility make little money for their work, illegal immigrants are treated far worse. The Department of Homeland Security guidelines state that any non-citizen can make no more than $1 a day for the countless labor tasks they are forced to perform while imprisoned. This policy enables these companies to have maintenance crews, cleaners, cooks and groundskeepers at almost no cost. In addition to nearly no-cost labor, these detention centers maximize profits with the deplorable conditions they force these immigrants to live in. By only spending about $28 per inmate, they can make a profit of over $50 per inmate for every day they detain them.

As a result, there is now a profit motive behind arresting and detaining immigrants. With more than 7 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., it is unrealistic that deportation would ever be a feasible solution to the problem. But maybe that's just the plan for-profit detention centers have in mind: a constant inflow of money at the cost of a human life, even that of a child. It is imperative that we as a society take a stand against the human rights violations that are occurring everyday in detention centers throughout our country. Next Thursday, May 1, provides an excellent opportunity to become involved in this issue by joining the march and rally for immigrant rights being held on the steps of the Capitol."

The authors are graduate students in social work at the University of Texas.