Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dec. 7, New York, NY: Worship Service and Workshop on Families and Detention

Please join Grassroots Leadership at historic Judson Memorial Church on Sunday, December 7, 2008, 55 Washington Square South, New York, for a service and workshop on immigrant family detention and the campaign to end it.  The schedule is as follows: 

11:00 am: Service and Agape Meal
Messsage: Luissana SantibaƱez
Music: Monica Simpson and Si Kahn

1:00 pm: Workshop: Families In Jail in America:
The Campaign to Abolish Immigrant Family Detention: Join Grassroots Leadership staff and board members Luissana SantibaƱez, Bob Libal, Si Kahn, Monica Simpson, Mafruza Khan and Mitty Owens for a short film screening of Hutto: America's Family Prison, a discussion of the issue and the campaign, and to find out what you can do to help stop 'immigrant family detention' before it spreads.  Workshop space is limited, so please RSVP to Monica Simpson at or 704-968-0658

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Obama taps AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano for DHS Secretary

Many are wondering what to think about President-elect Obama's possible nomination of Arizona governor Janet Napolitano for Department of Homeland Security Secretary. After looking into a few commentaries, I thought I would post some here.

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.

Cheney, Gonzales, Lucio, & GEO Group Indicted in Willacy County, Texas

Not directed related to family detention--yet. Willacy County, the home of the Raymondville detention complex, has returned indictments for Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Texas state legislature representative Eddie Lucio, and the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) for their roles in the immigration detention system and the 2001 death of an inmate.

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. ...

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.

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 case will be interesting because, as Will Bunch of 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

December 7, 2008: Vigil for Families in Detention

Williamson County Courthouse | December 7, 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.