While struggling to attain asylum, hundreds of immigrant women are kept behind chain-link fences within a former medium security prison, no more than an hour away from the state Capitol.
A review of detention centers released on Oct. 6 by Dora Schriro, the former director of the U.S. Office of Detention Policy and Planning, made recommendations for detention centers. Janet Napolitano, U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary, announced reforms for facilities soon after.
According to one reform, the center, which released the last family on Sept. 17, would detain women only. It has worked toward consolidating the female populations from three other facilities: Willacy, Pearsall and Port Isabel.
“Many of the settlement’s improvements that we achieved we hope will be continued to be maintained for the women, but the government is not bound by any settlement agreement,” Hines said.
UT law student Ruth Rosenthal works at the clinic and has visited the center with former UT law student — and current attorney for American Gateways — Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, who also worked at the clinic.
Rosenthal provided counsel for 25 women and assisted a woman from El Salvador, resulting in the reduction of her bond at the center and subsequent release in October. “She had a really good asylum claim. Also, at Hutto she developed numerous medical conditions,” Rosenthal said. “There were a lot of humanitarian concerns that compelled her release at Hutto.”
Pruneda said facilities have arrangements with nearby medical centers to provide health care if specific services needed are not available at the facility. The facility maintains a population of 512 and remains substantially full,Lincoln-Goldfinch said. She said the facility has remained true to the settlement, giving it “a residential feel, rather than a correctional feel,” but policies dictating the retention of detainees may require reformation.
“[Detainees] should be paroled out as soon as they pass a credible fear interview,” Lincoln-Goldfinch said. “You have to show you have been persecuted in the past or [have] a well-founded fear of future persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.”
Pruneda said the average stay for detainees nationwide is 31 days. However, Lincoln-Goldfinch said some women may end up staying six to nine months “because their cases are a bit different.”
Lincoln-Goldfinch said alternatives, such as probation or an ankle-bracelet program, are a more cost-effective means of monitoring illegal immigrants.
“I would hope at some point there would be no Hutto facility in the sense that people would be released into the community more regularly and the government would explore alternatives to detention,” Hines said. “There are other means to ensure immigrants appear at their hearings, which is the rationale the government makes for detaining them in the first place.”
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Hutto no longer holds families, we're still happy to say, but now there are around 500 women held there. As the Daily Texan reports,