Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get on the Van! March 7th

this just in from UH's SDS Chapter....

UH SDS March 7th Protest Flyer

Shut Hutto Down! - Change we can believe in

Students for a Democratic Society of the University of Houston is callingfor a protest at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor Texas on Saturday March 7th. The T. Don Hutto Facility is a retrofitted medium security prison run by the Tennessee based Corections Corporation of America, that detains pregnant women and women with children awaiting immigration court hearings.

This is a violation of the rights of children, a draconian false solution to the issues raised by human migration, a huge waste of taxpayer dollars going into the pockets of CCA shareholders, and a bad public policy, period. The intersection of xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria and thecontinual growth of prisons for profit is a threat to human rights. We cannot sit by and allow private companies to profit of off the incarceration of children.

As part of the 100 actions in 100 days to end family detention we arecalling on people and organization from throughout Texas to join us on March 7th in Taylor Texas at 11am at the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility 1001 Welch St, Taylor, TX, 76574. Please get in touch if you wouldlike to be listed as a co-sponsor.

SDS in Houston will be leaving from the University of Houston campus at 7:30am to caravan to Taylor. If you would like a space in one of our vans (we are also asking for a deposit for the rental), or to carpool with us, please write us an email SDSUHtx [at ] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Film about Hutto: The Least of These

2.12.2009: A new feature-length documentary on Hutto will be premiering at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival. Directed by Clark and Jesse Lyda, The Least of These follows the development of family detention policy, its implementation, the movement against Hutto, and changes in family detention policy. We'll keep you posted on viewing times, but for now, here's an UPDATED synopsis:

'The Least of These' explores one of the most controversial aspects of American immigration policy: family detention.

As part of the Bush administration policy to end what they termed the "catch and release'" of undocumented immigrants, the U.S. government opened the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in May 2006 as a prototype family detention facility. The facility is a former medium-security prison in central Texas operated by CCA, the largest private prison operator in the country. The facility houses immigrant children and their parents from all over the world who are awaiting asylum hearings or deportation proceedings.

The facility was initially activated with little media attention or public knowledge. Soon, however, immigration attorney Barbara Hines was contacted by detainees seeking representation, and she became increasingly concerned about the troubling conditions there. She joined forces with Vanita Gupta of the ACLU and Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission to investigate conditions and seek changes. Their efforts were initially hampered by a lack of openness and oversight within the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) organization. Undeterred, the three attorneys attempted to bring about changes in both policy and conditions, by making their findings public, encouraging involvement by activists and the media, and ultimately by filing a historic lawsuit.

As these events unfold, the film explores the government rationale for family detention, conditions at the facility, collateral damage, and the role (and limits) of community activism in bringing change. The film leads viewers to consider how core American rights and values – due process, presumption of innocence, upholding the family structure as the basic unit of civil society, and America as a refuge of last resort – should apply to immigrants, particularly children.

UPDATE: The SXSW Schedule is out! Here's the showing info for The Least of These:

11:00 AM, Monday March 16th - Alamo Ritz 1,
320 E. 6th Street, Austin, Tx.

7:00 PM, Wednesday March 18th - Alamo Lamar 3, 1120 S. Lamar, Austin, Tx.

11:00 AM, Friday March 20th - Paramount Theater, 713 Congress, Austin, Tx.

**Everything subject to change, so check for updates!**

Send Valentines to Hutto's Children!

I know it's only a couple days away, but take a few minutes to drop a few cards to the kids at Hutto.

About 130 Children will be incarcerated on Valentines Day. Let them know you are thinking of them by sending Valentines!

Valentines for Children
T. Don Hutto
1001 Welch
Taylor, TX 76574

If you mail individual Valentines, address to (for example): Girl, Age 5.

If you prefer to send a large packet of Valentines, just send them to the address above.

You may also send toys and books.

Hutto's inmates include:
5 - infants
5 - 1 year olds
10 - 2 & 3 year olds
15 - 4 & 5 year olds
15 - 6 & 7 year olds
15 - 8 & 9 year olds
15 - 10 & 11 year olds
15 - 12 & 13 year olds
20 - 14 & 15 year olds
15 - 16 & 17 year olds

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A message from Rev. Milton Jordan, Georgetown, Tx

February 5, 2009

Subject: An Ecumenical Time of Prayer for Immigrants

Dear members of the Central Texas faith community,

In the New Testament, Jesus asks us to welcome the stranger, for "what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me" (Matthew 25:40). The Old Testament counsels the Hebrews: "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34). The Qur'an demands that we "do good to҆those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet" (4:36). The Hindu Taitiriya Upanishad tells us: "The guest is a representative of God" (1.11.2).

As we begin a new century and a new millenium, our American immigration system is broken, causing havoc for both immigrants and hosts. It's time to talk about ways to create new policies that will better serve us all. As this dialogue opens, I'd like to invite you and your congregation to join us in an Ecumenical Time of Prayer for Immigrants on February 15, 7:00 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church (at University and Ash) in Georgetown. This vigil, sponsored by the Southwest Texas Methodist Federation for Social Action, is one of many to be held across the nation Feb. 13-16 to call all people of faith to welcome the stranger in our midst.

Reworking our immigration system will require a strong statement from a united community of conscience; but although the hierarchies of the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and other Christian churches have come out strongly in favor of welcoming our new immigrants, we find that many Americans are too concerned about survival issues to be anything but suspicious of those who want to share the shrinking economic pie. The enclosed immigration fact sheet can be used an impetus for opening discussions with your members to help us all come to a better understanding of the problems that exist for various players in this drama. Other useful resources will be available at our vigil.

We hope you will join us as we pray for all immigrants and their families, remembering that most of our ancestors were immigrants as well.

Rev. Milton S. Jordan

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The American Prospect: The Big Business of Family Detention

Courtney Martin, of The American Prospect, says family detention should be at the top of the immigration rights agenda for Obama's administration.  While the costs of immigration and family detention are high--totaling 2.7 billion dollars this year in ICE's budget this year--the moral costs are higher:

The bottom line is not just economic, however. Children and families have suffered inexcusable indignities under this new policy, which treats them like convicted criminals instead of asylum-seekers and potential citizens. Despite the fact that myriad human rights and community groups -- such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Immigration Studies -- have condemned the practice of detaining children in prison-like environments, ICE is seeking to open three new family detention centers, doubling its capacity. As of this writing, ICE still hasn't released the names of the winning contractors and/or locations, but the announcement is expected to be made sometime this year with the new facilities scheduled to open in 2010. ...

Thanks to lawsuits against CCA, children can now wear pajamas, play, and attend classes during the day, and pregnant women are receiving some neonatal care, but the spirit of incarceration continues. Immigration officials claim that family detention is necessary in order to prevent immigrants and asylum-seekers from fleeing the country. However, even ICE admits that alternatives -- like its own pilot program in 2004 where specialists were assigned a limited caseload of detainees whom they monitored using home visits and telephone calls -- have a 94 percent appearance rate overall.

Family detention centers may provide a meager 6 percent reduction in flight risk, but this country pays a far bigger price in lost integrity. We lock up children and their families -- many of whom have suffered economic deprivation, exploitation, and oftentimes, domestic and sexual abuse -- before they've even had a hearing as to their immigration status.

Renee Feltz, a multimedia investigative journalist based in New York City who co-runs a project on the business of immigrant detention, reports that waiting in such unbearable conditions often brings immigrants -- especially women with children -- to their knees. "Many of the people we talked to are so miserable in these facilities that they will eventually agree to being deported even if they think they have a legitimate claim to asylum," Feltz says. "They just want to get out as fast as possible."

In this way, one of the first lessons we teach potential new citizens about America is one of cruel, Orwellian hypocrisy. You must earn your freedom, if at all, via imprisonment. Dignity comes only by bearing undignified conditions. The last administration's obsession with family values is glaringly absent from this Civics 101 course. We welcome children who have heard tall tales of the abundance and liberty of America with rehabbed cells and 10 minutes to wolf down an inadequate lunch of cheap starches on a prison tray.

First and foremost, immigrant family detention must stop. On Jan. 21, Grassroots Leadership, a Southern community organizing group, launched a campaign with this goal, calling it 100 Actions in 100 Days. Given the new administration, hope for immigration reform, and a renewed focus on addressing corporate corruption, it's an opportune time to reactivate the country around this issue.

But there's an even bigger picture here that we must not lose sight of. Immigrant detention, on the whole, is riddled with corruption, inefficiencies, and indignities. Comprehensive immigration reform is a vital component of our country's next few years of healing and reform.

And an even bigger picture still: We live in a society that has bought blindly into the privatization and proliferation of our prisons. It's not so surprising that we force immigrant children to live in cells and wear hospital garb when you consider the national tendency toward incarceration, racism, and xenophobia.

We've got a lot to heal. Let's start by abolishing family detention centers immediately.

Download the "official" End Family Detention Calendar!

A very special thanks to Peter Dana for putting together this 2009 calendar!

Each month features an image of the movement to end family detention.

Keep track of the campaign to end family, send it to your favorite immigrant rights advocate, and spread the message!