Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New wing being considered for Hutto

Read the full posting at KLBJ.

This morning, the Williamson County Commissioners will consider a proposal to create a new wing of the T Don Hutto Residential Center. The former prison in Taylor is used by Immigration and Custom's Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrant families awaiting immigration or asylum hearings.

ICE is suggesting that about half of T Don Hutto be used to detain non-criminal females. Right now, about 250 men, women, and children are being held at the former prison, which has the capacity to hold 500 people.

and from the Houston Chronicle:

Commissioner Cynthia Long said she is comfortable adding more female detainees, saying new measures have been put in place to prevent future incidents. Some of those include more staff training and education on how to operate video and security equipment.

The contract change surprised some residents opposed to the facility.

"I'm so adamant that this is wrong, but I don't know how we can go about changing this mind-set," said Jose Orta, president of the Taylor chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens. "This is just adding more fuel to the fire for us."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Crime without Punishment: Sexual Assault at Hutto

In May of 2007, a guard had sex with a female detainee at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.
Federal law criminalizes sex between detained inmates and guards, regardless of whether the relations are consensual. However, ICE falls within a loophole- only recently fixed through Congressional action- that prevented the prosecution of the guard.

Following an open records request filed by the Taylor Daily Press, ICE released 80 pages of the investigation (the original document contains over 400 pages, including names, ages, identifying information, a photo of the alleged victim and detailed testimony from both parties. The rest is redacted or blacked out.)

Please read Tessa Mole's whole article in the Taylor Daily Press. Below are highlights.

On Saturday, May 19, a guard was videotaped just before midnight crawling out of a detainee's room, “in an attempt to avoid the (security) camera.” ...Security officers monitoring the cameras saw him leaving the woman's room and contacted CCA supervisors.

According to the ICE reports, later viewings of security tapes show the guard entering the room on two occasions that night - once at 11:29 p.m. and leaving at 11:36, when he is shown “adjusting his pants around the belt area.” He reentered at 11:37 p.m. before crawling out about 10 minutes later.

The outcome of the investigation, which included testimony from both parties, semen samples found on the concrete floor of the room, fingerprints on the toilet seat and sink and surveillance tapes of the common area where the guard patrolled, was nothing.

Both state and federal prosecutors have since said they could not pursue the case.

The guard was immediately placed on administrative leave; he was officially fired the next day.

... the alleged victim's son was in the room during the sexual encounter, according to the ICE report. The son's age was not reported but the victim's room contained a crib.

Jana McCown, first assistant district attorney, said the incident and possible charges of official oppression did not fall under Texas law because T. Don Hutto is a federal detention facility.

Monday, January 14, 2008

NNIRR Conference in Houston

This week in Houston, the National Network on Immigrant and Refugee Rights will be holding its National Conference for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
The conference will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, January 18, 2008 and will go through Sunday, January 20 at 1 p.m.

Workshops will include:
  • Lifting Immigrant Voices in the 2008 Elections
  • Racism and Immigration: Bridging Communities in the Post-Katrina Era
  • Organizing and Communications Skills Development
  • Border and Interior Immigration Law Enforcement
  • Globalization and Migration: Addressing "Root Causes"
  • Promoting the Human Rights of Im/Migrants
  • Immigration, Labor and Workers Rights
  • Immigration Policy and Legislation
  • Popular Education for Transformative Community Organizing

On Wednesday, January the 16th at 8pm, 5 short films on struggles for human dignity and freedom of movement. Click here for more information including directions, descriptions of films, and flyers or here to hear KPFT's (Houston) interview with the filmmakers and a conference organizer.
Rice Cinema is located on Rice University Campus at Entrance #8, University and Stockton Ave

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Government posts standards for family detention

As stipulated in the ACLU and UT Immigration settlement last fall, the government has published federal standards on family detention. Because this practice is so new, there have previously been no standardized guidelines for protocol and accountability. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

Read the Austin-American Statesmen's full report.

By Juan Castillo
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The first-ever federal standards for immigrant women and children held in confinement at facilities in Taylor and Pennsylvania are an improvement, but fall short of ensuring appropriate conditions for families who have committed no crimes, advocates for immigrants and refugees said Friday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Friday posted the 37 new standards on the agency's Web site. They address education, discipline, use of force, medical care, strip searches, sexual assault and prevention, detainee counts and other issues.

..."We commend the Department of Homeland Security for drafting standards that will improve these facilities," said Michelle Brané with the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children in New York. "However, we continue to be concerned with many provisions of the standards, particularly that they allow children to be disciplined based on adult prison protocol, including the use of restraints, steel batons and strip searches."