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Proposed legislation would provide state license to immigrant family detention centers

Karnes County Detention Center
State lawmakers in Austin have proposed a bill that would allow the state of Texas to license two family detention centers near San Antonio as childcare facilities, reports the San Antonio Express

Since the two facilities hold both adults and children, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) wouldn't license the facilities when they opened in 2014 following a large influx of Central America families seeking asylum in the US. In 2015, a federal judge ruled that family detention centers, such as those in Karnes City and Dilley, were not allowed to hold families for extended periods of time because the centers were not licensed and the families could not leave.

Immigration quietly increasing number of migrant families detained

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quietly been increasing the number of migrant families in their detention facilities in South Texas, reports The Monitor.

The number of migrants who are processed through ICE and released locally has dropped significantly, according to the Sacred Heart Immigrant Respite Center in McAllen. Less than a month ago the center saw around 300 migrants a day, with the center now averaging about 90 people per day. People from the respite center and RAICES believe that the number is based off of the number of beds available in Karnes or Dilley family detention centers, which hold primarily Central American mothers and their children seeking asylum.

Last December, a judge in Austin ruled that the two facilities could not be licensed as child care facilities. During the time of the ruling, there were about 1,700 people in Dilley and 600 in Karnes. RAICES, which provide pro bono legal services at the two centers, said the numbers are now closer to 2,000 in Karnes and 700 in Dilley.

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County Judge says family detention center is still an option

The application for a family detention center in San Diego is still pending, despite a court ruling against the state licensing family detention centers as child care facilities, reported Caller-Times of Corpus Christi.

Duval County Commissioners voted in July to begin contract negotiations with Serco, a UK-based private prison company, to turn an old nursing home facility into a family detention center. This decision came about after Jim Wells County decided against entering into a contract with Serco over the nursing facility, which sits in both Jim Wells and Duval counties.

The contract from Duval County is still pending following the court decision by District Judge Karin Crump that invalidates the rule that Texas Department of Family and Protective Services used to license family detention facilities as child care facilities. This decision impacts the  South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and the Karnes County family detention. These facilities are operated by the private prison companies CoreCivic (formerly CCA), and GEO Group, respectively.

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500 immigrant women and children released from detention

The Huffington Post writes that nearly 500 immigrant women and children were released from two Texas family detention centers this past weekend.

Women and children from both the South Texas Family Residential and the Karnes Family Residential Center were released over the weekend, following a ruling by an Austin judge that the state of Texas cannot license family detention centers as childcare facilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied that the releases had anything to do with the court ruling and claimed that they had already been scheduled.

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Texas Attorney General appeals licensing case

On Monday the Texas attorney general appealed a judge's ruling that prevents two federal family detention centers in South Texas from being licensed as child care facilities, reports ABC News.

As we reported earlier, Judge Karin Crump ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) could not license the South Texas Family Residential Facility in Dilley, Texas, or the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. This lawsuit was filed by immigrant families who had been detained in those facilities, who argued that the state’s motivation for licensing the facilities is to defend harsh federal immigration enforcement rather than to protect children. The temporary restraining order from Judge Crump prevented the licensing of the Dilley facility, and invalidated the license for the Karnes facility, which had been granted before the lawsuit began.

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Judge issues final judgement preventing licensing of Texas family detention centers

According to a press release from Grassroots Leadership, an Austin judge has issued a final judgement on a lawsuit by immigrant families to stop the licensing of family detention facilities in Texas.

The decision by Judge Karin Crump of the 250th District Court will effectively prevent the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing licenses to the nation's two largest family detention centers - the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. Both of these facilities are run by private prison corporations, with the Dilley facility run by CoreCivic (formerly CCA), and Karnes operated by GEO Group.

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Homeland Security advisory committee recommends end to family detention

The Department of Homeland (DHS) Security's Advisory Committee on Family Detention has recommended that DHS end its policy of detaining children and their families, reports Human Rights First.  

The 166-page report by the Advisory Committee on Family Detention emphasized that the recommendation to end the practice of family detention is consistent with U.S. law. This recommendation follows a growing body of medical and mental health literature that shows the harmful impacts of detention on children's health.    

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Immigration agency expands family detention facilities

The San Antonio Express reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently extended the contract at the South Texas Family Residential Camp in Dilley, Texas until 2021.

The detention center in Dilley, which is run by Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), is used to detain Central American mothers and children who are seeking asylum.

This comes as the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, is reviewing whether they should follow the Department of Justice's decision to phase out the use of private prison corporations. "I don’t know what they’re thinking, to be honest with you,” Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program for the Women’s Refugee Commission, said of ICE’s renewal of the Dilley contract.

The new contract, though for the facility in Texas, is actually passed through an existing contract with the city of Eloy, Arizona.  The U.S. government will pay about $13 million a month for the facility in Dilley, which is about half of the previous payment.

ICE has also said that they are reviewing proposals for an additional 2,500 family detention beds at various sites. GEO Group, the private prison company that runs the Karnes County family detention center, said that they will propose taking a portion of the new beds that ICE are seeking.

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ICE Renews Private Contract to Run Largest Family Detention Center

According to Huffington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revised and renewed its' contract with a private company to keep operating the country's largest family detention center. 

ICE renewed the contract with Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) to run the South Texas Family Residential Center for another five years. The contract renewal comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would phase out their use of private prisons. While this announcement did not affect immigrant detention centers, such as the South Texas Family Residential Center, it did cause the Department of Homeland Security to review whether ICE should follow through with the DOJ decision to phase out using private prison companies. 

Under the renewed contract CCA will receive less money to run the facility. However, CCA will receive payment regardless of how many beds are filled at their facility. The contract is scheduled to last until September of 2021, but ICE does have the option to cancel it with 60 days' notice.  

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San Antonio Express-News says all private prisons need examination

The San Antonio Express-News Editorial board  said today that all private prisons need to be reviewed. After the Department of Justice's (DOJ) announcement to end its use of private prisons, the Department of Homeland Security is also reviewing their contracts with private prisons. The Express-News said that this was a welcome move as many privately-run detention centers have come under similar criticisms as the DOJ's private prisons.

The Editorial Board said "We are confident that a review by Homeland Security of its private facilities — two in Dilley and Karnes County — will result in similar findings."

This is the second time that a Texas newspaper's editorial board weighed in on the issue of private prisons. The McAllen Monitor also came out and suggested officials from the Homeland Security Advisory Council take a trip to Texas to see two of the privately-run facilities, which are located in Karnes and Dilley Texas, in able to see the conditions of the facilities in person.

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