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Organization of American States Investigates Hutto; Williamson Commission Challenger Opposes Hutto

Last Thursday, the Austin American-Statesman ran a story ("Rights group looks into care of immigrants at Taylor center," October 2) on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' investigation into the treatment of detained families at CCA's T. Don Hutto family detention center. IACHR is a division of the Organization of American States, to which the United States is a member. According to the article,

A delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was in Austin on Wednesday on a fact-finding mission on the treatment of immigrant families and asylum seekers at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor and other Texas facilities.

The commission, a body of the Organization of American States, monitors compliance by members, including the U.S., with human rights obligations established by international law.

The mission marks the first time the human rights commission has visited Texas to examine detention issues, said Denise Gilman, a professor at the University of Texas Law School's immigration clinic. She said the clinic and other organizations requested the visit during a hearing last year in Washington.

"It's a very important opportunity to raise some of these human rights issues taking place in our back yard before an international forum," Gilman said of the delegation's Austin visit. "The hope would be that the commission's findings and recommendations would lead the U.S. government to make changes in the way it handles immigrant detainees and asylum seekers."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, ICE, which oversees detention of illegal immigrants, could not be reached late Wednesday.

The story does not make it clear whether ICE or CCA allowed access to the facility for the OAS inspectors to investigate the conditions at the center. As we've reported, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants was denied access to the facility on a trip last year.

In related news, the Statesman is also reporting ("Two seats up for grabs on Commissioner Court,"" October 2) that Round Rock real estate broker Greg Windom, the Democratic challenger to Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey, would work to end the county's contract with private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America.

The issue came to a pass last October when County Commissioners unanimously voted to continue the Hutto contract after initially expressing concerns about liability in the wake of a sexual assault incident at the facility.

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