Corrections Corporation of America's controversial T. Don Hutto family detention center has continued to make news both in Texas and around the country.
As Nicole reported last week, a feature story in the New Yorker magazine covered the detention center and the trend in for-profit immigrant detention as a whole. The full story is now available online. Williamson County resident and geographer Peter Dana had an excellent letter following-up on the New Yorker story in the Williamson County Sun last week, which I've attached. Here's a sample:
Surely we don’t really believe that innocent children should be held in detention facilities, internment camps, or prisons, especially if the parents have committed no sin at all, merely applied for asylum. For our County Commissioners to take part in subverting a bidding process for a part of the proceeds is wrong. Let’s have some charity for the children, not for the Corrections Corporation of America, and put an end to this costly, unnecessary, and unjust practice.
Last week, Hutto was mentioned by United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrant, Jorge Bustamonte, (who, as many readers may remember was denied access to Hutto last spring) who criticized immigrant detention and deportation practices in hearings. Bustamonte said at the hearings last Friday that his trip to Hutto was canceled "without satisfactory explanation."
Hutto also drew criticism from Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) and California Representative Linda Sanchez at House Homeland Security meetings with DHS Director Michael Chertoff. According to the Statesman article:
Sanchez said that children at the facilities had been put in cells alone for hours, awakened in the middle of the night with flashlights in their faces and threatened with being permanently separated from their parents.
And, in local news, an International Women's Day Protest and Peace Walk was held at Hutto this past Saturday and drew a few dozen folks from Terlingua, San Antonio, Austin, and Williamson County. Read the Taylor Daily Press's coverage here.
Below is a video of a protest I participated in at GEO Group's Val Verde Detention Center last October. The protest was organized by the Texas Jail Project, Grassroots Leadership, and the Border Ambassadors after a series of scandals including a sexual assault and suicide of LeTisha Tapia, a racial discrimination lawsuit, a civil rights violation, and three mysterious deaths.
Update: I'll be continuing to update the precincts in this post as they come in, occassionally bumping this post to the top.
As we mentioned in a previous post, one of the more interesting parts of Tuesday's caucus process is the resolution process, where grassroots Democratic Party members are allowed to introduce resolutions which can eventually be introduced to the state party platform. Resolutions calling for the closure of the T. Don Hutto detention center was introduced in dozens of precincts in at least five counties.
Although official results haven't been released, thus far I've heard that the Hutto resolutions passed in the following precincts:
Travis County - 136, 152, 235, 239, 250, 274, 410, 424, 426, 427, 423, 442, 431, 315, 334, 345
Harris County - 57, 268, 361, 732
Williamson County - 427, 425, 357
Brazoria County - 58
Bexar County - 3024, 3098
I assume there are many more precincts, especially in Travis, Williamson, and Bexar Counties where the resolutions were introduced into the party precinct packets. If you know of a precinct not listed that passed the Hutto resolution, please contact me. I have heard of at least one precinct in Harris County that did not adopt the resolution, but overwhelming I've heard positive reviews from precinct-goers who introduced the resolution.
In related news, an International Women's Day protest is scheduled this Saturday in Taylor. Details from an organizer:
The peace walk will begin at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 8, at the Heritage Park in downtown Taylor (directions below) and end across the street from the prison, about 1.25 miles away. Please assemble at Heritage Park at 3:00 p.m. We will rally peacefully across the street at the Hutto prison until just after sunset, when we will have a short candlelight vigil and prayer ceremony.
I checked out the pre-election coverage of the south Texas monthly LareDos (read the full issue - warning big PDF!) to see what the candidates in last Tuesday's Democratic primary were saying about the controversial U.S. Marshals contracted "superjail" to be operated by The GEO Group. Apparently, the superjail remains controversial with candidates taking a variety of positions on its construction.
In the race for County Commission Precinct 1, three challengers to incumbent Frank Sciaraffa all said they are opposed to the prison, while arguing for various levels of county opposition to the plan. Raul L. Reyes, the current mayor of El Cenizo, appears the most vocal in his opposition to the facility. Sciaraffa, for his part, claims that the county has no say in the prison issue whatsoever, despite issuing water hook-ups for the 1,500 bed facility. The Laredo Morning Times reports that Reyes and Sciaraffa appear to be headed for a runoff.
In the County Commission Precinct 3 race, incumbent Jerry Garza, who accoring to the same LMT article won a slight majority of the votes, seems resigned to allow the prison to open, while CY Benavides openly applauded the superjail. Challenger "Cuate" Mendoza opposed the superjail saying "We must work with Federal ofﬁcials to get the Geo Group out of the jail business."
In related news, the Laredo Morning Times reported last week that GEO Group donated $20,000 to the Laredo United Way. GEO Group's $250,000 donations to the Webb County and the City of Laredo last spring were rejected after being criticized by local activists and the media as "dirty money" and an apparent quid pro quo for building permits and water hook-ups.