Saturday, August 21, 2010

Williamson County's Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations at T. Don Hutto



508 South Rock Street

Georgetown, Texas 78626

Phone (512) 943-1300 * Fax (512) 943-1444

August 19, 2010


Arrest made in T. Don Hutto Investigation.

On May 11, 2010, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office received a report from the Austin Police Department regarding an employee of the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas. The report detailed how a female made contact with an Austin Bergstorm International Airport employee advising them that she had been inappropriately touched outside her clothing while being transported from the T. Don Hutto facility to the airport. The report identified an employee of the Correction Corporation of America as being the suspect of this allegation. The Correction Corporation of America is the contracted company at the T. Don Hutto facility which houses federal immigration detainees. Due to the facility being in Williamson County, The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office immediately began an investigation into this allegation. On the same date, Donald Charles Dunn, a Resident Supervisor at the T. Don Hutto facility and employee of Correction Corporation of America was identified as the suspect of this allegation. Mr. Dunn met with Williamson County Detectives on May 20, 2010 and explained to detectives that he told the women he was going to “frisk” them and then inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks. Mr. Dunn advised that he didn’t do this for safety concerns but as self gratification. Mr. Dunn indicated to Detectives that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as a transport officer. A large scale investigation into the current locations of other possible victims began immediately after Mr. Dunn’s interview. Detectives from Williamson County and Immigration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Office of Professional Responsibility/San Antonio) set out to make contact with several of the possible victims who had located across the country since bonding out of the facility. Mr. Dunn was subsequently terminated from his contract employment with Correction Corporation of America when the allegation was first reported to authorities.

The investigation revealed that all of the possible victims of Mr. Dunn had been released on bond from the T Don Hutto federal facility and were being transported to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport or bus station. It was during these courtesy transports that Mr. Dunn would stop at different locations in the areas of both Travis and Williamson County. Williamson County is pursuing charges against Mr. Dunn for his actions in the area of the convenience store located at 20306 FM 973. The transports usually occurred in the early morning hours when it was still dark.

Three women that were interviewed told detectives that they were inappropriately touched outside of their clothing on their breast, virginal or buttocks areas. Two of the three victims said they were unlawfully restrained. The two charges of unlawful restraint occurred when Mr. Dunn took the victims to the above location against their will. One victim told officers she thought she would be either “killed or violated”. Several women who were interviewed denied any contact with Mr. Dunn. Some of those advised that they were transported in the daylight hours and or it was raining. Several women could not be located for questioning because of out of date addresses with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Date of Birth 12/23/1979 of 14408 Varrelman Street in Austin was arrested on August 19, 2010 at 4:50pm in Austin. Mr. Dunn will be booked into the Williamson County Jail where he awaits arrangement on a $35,000.00 bond. Mr. Dunn faces 3 counts of official oppression and 2 counts of unlawful restraint. Due to the late booking of Mr. Dunn, No mug shot is available till August 20, 2010.

The investigation is still ongoing at this time. Anyone having information about a victim or Mr. Dunn’s crimes is encouraged to call the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office at 512-943-1300 or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

*On August 20, 2010, at 10:00am, the Williamson County Sheriff’s will discuss and answer questions regarding limited aspects of the investigation with the media. The conference will be at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office located at 508 Rock Street in Georgetown, Texas. No further Information will only be available till 10:00am August 20, 2010*

The T. Don Hutto facility opened in May, 2006 as a family residential facility housing families while they awaited their immigration hearings or decisions The facility changed over to housing females in a separate area of the facility in February, 2008 and in September, 2009 the entire facility began housing only females. The facility is operated under an Immigration and Customs Intergovernmental Service Agreement with Williamson County. Williamson County contracts with Corrections Corporation of America for the facility's day-to-day operation. A new agreement with Williamson County became effective February 1, 2010. The facility employees 169 Correction Corporation of America Staff, 30 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Staff and 43 United States Public Health Services Staff.

For further media information contact:

Sergeant John Foster

Williamson County Sheriff’s Office

Special Investigations Unit

Pager: 512-208-2188

Grassroots Leadership

In Wake of Sexual Assault Arrest at Hutto, Grassroots Leadership Calls for Detention Reforms to Prioritize Release, not For-Profit Detention

For Immediate Release: August 20, 2010

Contact: Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487,

Austin, TX - Grassroots Leadership today called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make systematic changes to its detention system in the wake of the arrest of a former private prison guard on charges related to the sexual assault of women detained at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. The man, a former supervisor at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison, was charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint in the incidents in which he allegedly groped women in his custody transporting them to the airport or bus station.

The T. Don Hutto detention center is a private prison formerly contracted to detain immigrant families, including small children. Last August, in a victory for Grassroots Leadership and our allies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it would end family detention at Hutto as part of sweeping reforms to the detention system. The facility now detains women apprehended without children, many of whom are seeking asylum in the United States. Hutto is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest for-profit private prison corporation. ICE has held up Hutto as a model detention center.

"While we were heartened that the administration took on reforming the U.S. detention system a year ago, this egregious incident illustrates the inherent problems in a vast and growing immigration detention system with no meaningful oversight." said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership's Texas Campaigns Coordinator. "The Obama Administration should should immediately take steps to implement alternatives to detention and scale back its growing and out-of-control detention system."

The sexual abuse scandal is the latest in a series of such incidents at Texas detention centers. In 2007, a CCA employee was fired for inappropriate sexual contact with a female detainee who was held at the facility with her family. Earlier this year, a former Port Isabel Detention Center officer was sentenced to prison for sexual abuse of female detainees over a period of time in 2008. In 2008, an expose by the WOAI news station in San Antonio reported sexual abuse of female detainees at the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. Reports of sexual abuse against detainees have also plagued MTC's Willacy County Detention Center.

"These reports show the vulnerability of detained immigrants, especially women, in ICE's vast and largely privatized immigrant detention system," said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. "ICE should immediately re-evaluate its contracts with all private prison corporations, and speed the pace of reforms to its system. We are gravely concerned about the reality of women incarcerated for-profit and the impact of these closed corporate facilities on the lives, health and well being of women detainees."

WillCo to keep closer tabs on Hutto

Williamson County authorities say they will supervise employees at the T. Don Hutto detention facility more closely after a worker was accused of fondling women.

Donald Charles Dunn, 30, is charged with official oppression and unlawful restraint, Class A misdemeanors.

The facility in Taylor houses women who are illegal immigrants. Williamson County contracts with the private company, Correction Corporation of America (CCA) to run it.

In May, a woman told Austin police a man inappropriately touched her while she was being driven from the facility to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Area law enforcement investigated. They say they found five women in Williamson County and three in Travis County who say Dunn groped them when he was taking them to the airport or bus station.

Williamson County Sheriff’s spokesman John Foster says its contract with CCA states that two people will be present during transport but Dunn was alone when the alleged crimes happened.

The women told detectives they believed Dunn was a law enforcement officer and had the right to frisk them. Foster says Dunn was a resident supervisor and not an officer. CCA has fired Dunn.

News 8 Austin: T Don Hutto employee fired after alleged sexual abuse

A transport officer at the T. Don Hutto residential facility in Taylor was fired after confessing to inappropriately touching inmates after they were released.
Donald Dunn was in charge of taking former detainees to a destination of their choice after they were released from custody.

One woman was taken to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and told an ABIA employee about the inappropriate behavior. The woman’s outcry was enough to get the investigation started.

All of the victims were females previously held by the federal government concerning their immigration status.

Sgt. John Foster is a Williamson County Deputy Sheriff that also serves as a monitor for the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Foster had strong words for Dunn Friday.

"They deserve to come into this country and not be assaulted, he didn't give that to them," he said.

According to authorities, Dunn was responsible for the transport of 72 detainees while employed at the federal facility. Officials attempted to interview all of those he had transported during his time as an officer. Forty-two detainees were questioned, 30 women could not be found.

Sgt. Foster said the investigation went coast to coast in an attempt to locate potential victims.

Lisa Graybill is the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

"I believe many of these women are asylum seekers, so that means they fled persecution, violence, possible sexual violence in their home countries,” she said. "Only to come to this country and have this happen to them."

Word of the Hutto facility investigation reached Washington D.C., and officials in the case tell News 8 that President Obama was briefed regarding all of the charges against Dunn.

Dunn has been charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail.

ACLU Investigates Sexual Abuse at Hutto

August 20, 2010
11:23 AM

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666;

Sexual Abuse Of Female Detainees At Hutto Highlights Ongoing Failure Of Immigration Detention System, Says ACLU

NEW YORK - August 20 - A Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) employee at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility in Taylor, TX today was charged with sexually abusing numerous female immigration detainees. Donald Charles Dunn, a resident supervisor at the Hutto facility, is accused of abusing the detainees as he was transporting them to the airport after they had been released on bond and has allegedly admitted to telling the women that he was going to "frisk" them before touching their breasts and genital areas for his gratification, according to Sheriff's officials in Williamson County, TX. Dunn is charged with official oppression and unlawful restraint.

The American Civil Liberties Union is actively investigating the sexual abuse of female detainees at Hutto, where the detention of families was halted last year after the successful settlement of an ACLU lawsuit charging that children were being imprisoned in inhumane conditions while their parents awaited immigration decisions.

As part of its investigation, the ACLU has obtained via the Texas Public Information Act copies of both the Intergovernmental Services Agreement (IGSA) between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CCA and Williamson County, under which the Hutto facility is operated, and ICE's own transport policy. Both documents are being made available to the public and can be found online at: The opportunity for abuse was the result of a failure by CCA officials to abide by the IGSA that female immigration detainees not be isolated with male staff members.

The following can be attributed to Vanita Gupta, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

"The sexual abuse of numerous immigration detainees at Hutto underscores the systemic failures that continue to plague our nation's broken immigration detention system. The irony is that ICE touts Hutto as a flagship facility, emblematic of its commitment to reform. Clearly, that commitment is shallow. ICE has ignored repeated calls for increased and independent oversight and accountability of its immigration detention facilities and the private contractors like CCA who run them, and tragedies like this are the unfortunate result. It is time for ICE officials to live up to their promise of creating a ‘truly civil' immigration detention system that does not tolerate the abuse and degradation of its detainees."

The following can be attributed to Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas:

"It is long past time to close the book on ICE's relationship with CCA. If this administration is serious about reform, it cannot continue to spend millions of taxpayer dollars every month on a private contractor that has proven over and again it is demonstrably incapable of running a safe and humane facility. Immigrant women, many of whom who have fled to the United States seeking refuge from sexual violence, should not fear more of the same in the hands of ICE and its contractors. Zero tolerance starts at the top. The only way for ICE to restore integrity to its system is to immediately sever its contract with CCA and begin a new era of transparency and accountability."

KXAN: Eight Victims ID'd in Hutto Guard Case

Eight victims ID'd in Hutto guard case
Tensions mounting between facility, county

Updated: Friday, 20 Aug 2010, 5:22 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 20 Aug 2010, 9:21 AM CDT

Jackie Vega
TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) - Williamson County authorities said Friday that eight victims had been identified in connection with a former transport officer at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility , who police say groped several women he was supposed to be taking to airports and bus stations.

No sexual assault charges have been filed, however -- although Williamson County officials said they may be later on.

Currently, Donald Charles Dunn, 30, faces three charges of official oppression and two charges of unlawful restraint in connection with five victims police said were molested in Williamson County.

Charges have not yet been filed in connection with three more victims authorities said were attacked in Travis County.

President Obama and Congressional members have been briefed on this case because of its association with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Nineteen women have been interviewed so far, from Texas to Florida to Washington D.C., and another 11 still could be victims -- though they haven't been located. In his year of employment at the Taylor facility, Dunn transported 72 people from the facility - where they were being bonded out -- to airports or bus stations, so they could wait for their immigration hearings in locations near family or friends or employment.

Thirty of the people he transported were women.

Williamson County officials said that they were tightening their grip over the facility being run by the Corrections Corporation of America after it was discovered during the investigation that Dunn was not supposed to be transporting those women alone -- but that the facility was required, for the women's safety, to have two officers on board the vehicle with the detainees.

CCA is a private, for-profit company that runs jail and detention facilities, and has come under fire for cutting corners.

Dunn was arrested in Austin Thursday after police said he admitted stopping the van during the early morning trips, at locations in Williamson and Travis counties, and touching them inappropriately for his own "self gratification."

Dunn, a resident supervisor at the facility and employee of Correction Corporation of America, told officers that on these trips, "he told the women he was going to 'frisk' them and then inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks," according to a news release by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office.

"Mr. Dunn indicated to Detectives that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as a transport officer," the release said.

Dunn told officers he had done this with several women, while he was transporting them late at night, and would stop at several locations in Williamson and Travis counties to abuse them on the way to Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

The women were being given the rides to the airport and bus stations as a courtesy while they were out on bond, awaiting immigration hearings.

The first report came on May 11 when Austin police told Williamson County Sheriff's deputies that a woman had alerted an airport official that she had been abused on the way to the airport from the facility in Taylor. That's when detectives met with Dunn and listened to his description of groping "numerous women" while doing his duties as a transport officer.

"A large scale investigation into the current locations of other possible victims began immediately after Mr. Dunn’s interview," the news release said. "Detectives from Williamson County and Immigration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Office of Professional Responsibility/San Antonio) set out to make contact with several of the possible victims, who had located across the country since bonding out of the facility.

"Mr. Dunn was subsequently terminated from his contract employment with Correction Corporation of America when the allegation was first reported to authorities."

The investigation revealed that all of the possible victims of Dunn had been released on bond from the facility and were being transported to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport or bus station when the attacks occurred.

It was during these "courtesy transports" that Dunn would stop at different locations in the areas of both Travis and Williamson County.

Three women said they'd been inappropriately touched.Two of those victims said they were taken against their will to a location near a convenience store, during which one woman said she thought she'd either be killed or raped.

"Several (other) women who were interviewed denied any contact with Mr. Dunn," the statement read. "Some of those advised that they were transported in the daylight hours and or it was raining. Several women could not be located for questioning because of out of date addresses with Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

Dunn was arrested Thursday around 5 p.m. and posted bail on a $35,000 bond Friday.

The investigation is still ongoing at this time. Anyone having information about a victim or Dunn’s crimes is encouraged

Ex-detention center worker wasn't supposed to travel alone with women

By Claire Osborn | Friday, August 20, 2010, 02:12 PM

This story has been corrected to say that Dunn was a resident supervisor at the T. Don Hutto facility.

A former resident supervisor at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center wasn’t supposed to be traveling alone with the women he has been accused of groping, said John Foster, a spokesman for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.

Donald Charles Dunn, 30, has been charged with two counts of official oppression and three counts of unlawful restraint in connection with five incidents involving women in Williamson County, said Foster.

Dunn was arrested Thursday and was released from the Williamson County Jail on $35,000 bail today.

According to the contract that Williamson County had with the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the immigrant detention facility in Taylor, a corrections employee is not supposed to transport a detainee of the opposite sex without another employee present, Foster said.

No details were available Friday on how Dunn managed to not comply with that restriction.
Dunn, who was a resident supervisor and employee of the Corrections Corporation of America, drove 72 men, women and children to Austin-Bergstrom International Aiport from the detention facility during 2009 and 2010, Foster said. Detectives working with immigration officials interviewed 19 women and found that eight said Dunn had touched them inappropriately, including three from Travis County and five from Williamson County, Foster said.
A call to the Travis County attorney’s office on whether Dunn could face charges has not been immediately returned.

Investigators looked for victims across the country, including to Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles, but could not find 30 of the women Dunn drove to the airport, Foster said. Detectives were able to ascertain that no abuses occurred when Dunn wasn’t driving alone with women, Foster said.

Investigators were tipped off to the case May 11 when one of the women that Dunn took to the airport asked an airport employee if “it was normal” to be frisked like Dunn touched her, Foster said.

Dunn is accused of touching the female detainees near their breasts and genitals, officials said. Several times while taking women who had been released on bond to the airport, he would stop at a Conoco gas station in Coupland on FM 973 and ask the women to get out of the van, Foster said. He would then frisk them while they stood outside the van, Foster said. When interviewed by detectives Dunn said “he would frisk the females from the front and rear over their clothes,” including touching their bras, according to an arrest affidavit.

A spokesman for the Corrections Corporation of America, Steve Owen, said he couldn’t comment on how Dunn was able to violate the company’s contract with Williamson County by driving the women alone to the airport.

“Since we became aware of the allegation we immediately cooperated fully with law enforcement,” he said.

Former CCA Guard Charged in Sexual Abuse of Detained Women

This week, the Williamson County police announced that they were formally charging Donald Charles Dunn, aged 30, with two counts of official oppression and three counts of unlawful restraint. These charges from from five incidents involving women detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.

The abuses occurred when Dunn transported women from Hutto to the bus station or airport. Despite the fact that male guards are never to be alone with female detainees, Dunn transported women from Hutto frequently.

ICE has been investigating these abuses since May, and Thursday's charges were the first to be filed.

ICE has trumpeted Hutto as a "model civil detention facility" on its website. The scope of these charges reveals, we hope, that detention places noncitizens in inherently vulnerable positions, allowing any number of officials to take advantage of them.

These problems cannot be solved until detainees are released from detention, and the immigration system is transformed into the civil administrative process it was intended to be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taylor Daily Press: Vigil for detained families

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 1:00 am
Tricia Rosetty | 1 comment

In a field outside of the T. Don Hutto detention facility, about 70 people gather in 100-degree weather. Sweat drips onto their poster board signs – signs that read “Dignity not detention” and “Immigrant civil human rights.” The peaceful gathering, one of more than two dozen over the last four years, commemorates significant change at the facility; namely, the one-year anniversary of changing policy to not detain families at the former prison, though women and children are still held.

According to organizer and president of Taylor’s chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) José Orta, the vast majority of attendees at this weekend’s vigil were just people who care about the issue of immigrant detention, not those that know people in the facility. In fact, the group included people from as far away as San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley. The display of solidarity at the first vigil to be held this year was important.

“The biggest problem in the community is the apathy that happens,” Orta said. “People become apathetic to this cause. They don’t see it as an issue that touches them, but then when it does they’re surprised that these measures have become so draconian.”

The T. Don Hutto facility has been run by the Corrections Corporation of America and faced two allegations of sexual assault by CCA guards in the last three years, casting uncertainty about the private company’s management. Grassroots organizations across the country have focused on reform at this and similar facilities.

“I thought it was really powerful for people to get together and express their feelings about detention reform. I think people have been pretty disappointed that there haven’t been more reforms,” said Bob Libal, Texas campaign coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, the umbrella organization for Texans United for Families. TUFF, a group fighting to bring attention to immigrant rights, emerged from the vigils at T. Don Hutto, said Orta. In addition to sharing their perspective on the importance of the issue, those in attendance marched with signs and chanted together for over an hour.

“The good thing about chanting and using a microphone is that it creates an echo. We were just hoping that the detainees could hear us,” said Orta, noting that a view from the entrance was blocked when the event began. While the detainees may not have been able to see their supporters, the importance of the issue to those present was clear.

“Being in the country illegally is a civil matter, not a criminal matter,” said Orta. He said that the model of using detention facilities is not the answer because it uses a criminal justice mindset to address a civil issue – a model he fears will be emulated at other sites. Orta suggested that house arrest or even ankle bracelets would be preferable to detention at a facility like T. Don Hutto.

“If you feel they don’t deserve to be here, send them back. Don’t keep them here for months as a form of punishment as if they’ve done something criminal,” said Orta, noting that many individuals who are in the country illegally are seeking amnesty from dangerous situations in their home country. “Just because these people are not citizens, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard.”

Orta suggested that a federally run program would provide accountability that privatization does not and simplify transparency.

“Our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it. Detention like this for long periods of time is not the answer,” said Orta. “There has to be some kind of reform because this detention is not giving us any sense of goodwill throughout the world, and that’s not the way our country should be seen.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

Logistics: Directions + Caravan Information for August 7 Vigil

For those travelling from Austin, please meet up with others at the offices of PODER, 2604 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, Tx at 5:30pm, Saturday, August 7, 2010.

For those travelling from elsewhere...

From Austin.

From Houston.

From Dallas:

Your city not listed? Have questions? Email Bob Libal at boblibal at grassrootsleadership dot org.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vigil Marks 1 Year Anniversary of ICE's Reform + Family Release Announcement

Dignity not Detention Vigil:

No more Arizonas! No more Huttos!

Saturday, August 7th @ 7:00 PM

T. Don Hutto Detention Center, 1001 Welch St, Taylor, TX

Please join Texans United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, and organizers from across Texas for a vigil to draw attention to the nation's unaccountable and out-of-control detention system. The vigil will mark the one-year anniversary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) announced detention reform and the end of family detention at Hutto. ICE currently heralds Hutto as a model detention center despite the recent revelation in May that a CCA guard was accused of sexually assaulting several women detained at this 500-bed facility. Texas holds 10,000 beds in detention centers to date, with plans for continued expansion. In light of this news, we question ICE's characterization of its detention system as "civilized" and its definition of “reform.” Furthermore, the growing enforcement of immigration laws by local law enforcement as well as anti-immigrant legislation such as Arizona's SB 1070 will increase the detention of all immigrants. The arbitrary nature in which immigrants are shuttled between detention centers almost guarantees that Arizona's detainees will be sent to Texas, including the Hutto detention center, where their human rights will continue to be jeopardized.

Please join us to call for Dignity, not Detention for immigrants. For more information, please email:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Equal Justice Works Recognizes Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

Equal Justice Works interviews Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch about leadership in public interest law. Kate has represented detained at Central Texas detention centers, including Hutto, and was one of the first of Barbara Hines' law students to visit Hutto. Great work!

UT Immigration Clinic Still At It!

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,

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.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vigil to close Raymondville's Tent City

Vigil to Close "Tent City" Detention Center in Raymondville, Texas

Friday, October 16th, 5:00-7:00pm

The Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville is the nation's largest and one of its most notorious immigrant detention centers. The prison holds 3,000 immigrant detainees, including 2,000 people in a series of Kevlar tents, earning the facility the designation "Tent City." The facility has been racked by a series of allegations of horrendous conditions and abuse, including alleged sexual assaults on female detainees by guards, reports of detainees being fed rotten and inadequate food, and poor access to medical and mental health care. The facility is operated by private prison corporation Management and Training Corporation. Raymondville is the seat of Willacy County which borders Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico and is the 12th poorest county in the US.

The Raymondville detention center is one of two large immigrant detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley. Detainees at the other facility, the Port Isabel Detention Center, continue a rolling hunger-strike in protest of prolonged detention and detention center conditions. Please join Southwest Workers Union, Grassroots Leadership, Texans United for Families, Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, and concerned residents from across Texas in a vigil to launch a campaign to close Tent City and call for increased accountability in ICE's massive detention system.

For more information or directions, please contact Anayanse Garza with Southwest Workers Union at (956) 207-2571. A caravan will be leaving the Austin on Friday morning at 10:00am. For more information or to reserve for a place in the van from Austin, please contact Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership at or (512) 971-0487.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ICE moves women from other Texas facilities to Hutto

Today ICE announced more specific changes, following up on their August 6 announcement that Hutto would no longer detain families. With the last families leaving Hutto in September, the facility now holds only women. And now, it appears that Hutto will be a central detention center for women in Texas, as women are transferred there from Pearsall, Port Isabel, and Willacy (Raymondville).

By all accounts, the improvements made to Hutto following the ACLU's 2007 lawsuit make Hutto highly preferable to Pearsall, Port Isabel, and Willacy, where sexual assault and abuse allegations have repeatedly surfaced. Little has been done by ICE or the contracting corporations to address sexual abuse.

These changes are announced as ICE releases Dora Schriro's comprehensive study of the immigration detention system. More on that forthcoming, but a brief look reveals a deep concern for the expense of using private contractors, the inappropriateness of carceral forms of detention for non-violent detainees, and massive administrative disorganization.

Read ICE's fact sheet.
Read the full report on ICE's detention center.