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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.

Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal in order to have the two facilities licensed by DFPS, following the ruling by a federal judge last year that immigrant children would have to be released if the facilities were not licensed. The attorney general's office argued earlier this year that the licensing would improve safety because it requires improved background checks for employees and requires facilities to comply with unannounced inspections. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is reviewing the ruling and a spokesperson has said that “operational activities continue without interruption at this time.”

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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.

The lawsuit had initially halted the licensing procedures of the Dilley family detention center as a child care facility, and this ruling invalidates the original DFPS rule that allowed the facilities to be licensed. Italso invalidates the license that the Karnes facility had received before the case could be presented to a judge, since it involves an invalidated regulation, as well as prevents further attempts at licensing without action by the Texas legislature.

"The conditions at Karnes and Dilley are equivalent to prisons, not childcare facilities,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a plaintiff in the case.  “We are glad the court heard our concerns about the damage that family detention does to mothers and their children and how lowering standards to issue licenses to these facilities only exacerbates that harm.  We now call on the Obama Administration to end the practice of detaining immigrant families once and for all.”

 

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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.    

There are currently three family detention centers in the U.S., with one in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and two located in Texas. The South Texas Family Residential Camp, located in Dilley, Texas, has denied access to attorneys in the past, while the Karnes Family Detention Center has been accused of violating laws related to the American with Disabilities Act. Women detained at the Berks Family Detention Center in Pennsylvania went on a hunger strike this past summer to protest their prolonged detention.  

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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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The Brownsville Herald supports DHS review of private prisons

A Texas newspaper has come out in support of the Dept. of Homeland Security's (DHS) review of private prison contracts. The Brownsville Herald came out to say that they had called on Secretary Johnson and the DHS to review their private prison contracts, much like the Dept. of Justice did. The newspaper continued by saying: 

"We applaud Secretary Johnson for recognizing that failures in for-profit run prison facilities could also extend to for-profit immigration detention facilities, such as the large holding facilities in South Texas in Dilley and Karnes City.

We encourage the Homeland Security Advisory Council to investigate thoroughly all for-profit facilities operated under Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure they meet humanitarian standards and U.S. detention facility protocol. Charges by former immigrant detainees and numerous immigration advocacy groups that immigrant mothers in these for-profit facilities are denied access to their children, put in isolation, denied medical care or psychological help are disturbing and should not be condoned."

The paper then went on to invite the members Homeland Security Advisory Board, who will review private prison facilities and their contracts, to come to Texas to visit in person the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America, and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City run by the GEO Group.

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The McAllen Monitor supports DHS review of private prisons

A Texas newspaper’s editorial board has come out in support of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) review of private prison contracts. The McAllen Monitor Editorial Board has previously called on DHS Secretary Johnson and the DHS to review their private prison contracts.

The editorial board also asked DHS to do more, saying:

We applaud Secretary Johnson for recognizing that failures in for-profit run prison facilities could also extend to for-profit immigration detention facilities, such as the large holding facilities in South Texas in Dilley and Karnes City.

We encourage the Homeland Security Advisory Council to investigate thoroughly all for-profit facilities operated under Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure they meet humanitarian standards and U.S.. detention facility protocol. Charges by former immigrant detainees and numerous immigration advocacy groups that immigrant mothers in these for-profit facilities are denied access to their children, put in isolation, denied medical care or psychological help are disturbing and should not be condoned.


The paper urged members Homeland Security Advisory Board, who will conduct the review, to come to Texas to visit in person the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America, and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City run by the GEO Group.

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Private prison companies are paid for family detention centers whether beds are filled or not

Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) will receive payment from the federal government from their 2,400-bed family detention center regardless of how many beds are filled, according to The Washington Post.

Due to the high number of migrants crossing the border from Central American countries, the Obama administration agreed to a deal with CCA in a four-year, $1 billion contract to run the South Texas Residential Facility in Dilley, Texas. Typically,  contracts between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private corporations have the payout based on the percentage of beds filled.

ICE spokesperson Jennifer Elzea said that the contract is “unique” in its payment because they pay "a fixed monthly fee for use of the entire facility regardless of the number of residents."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House of Representatives' Immigration and Border Subcommittee, said "for the most part, what I see is a very expensive incarceration scheme. It's costly to the taxpayers and achieves almost nothing, other than trauma to already traumatized individuals."

Elzea also told The Washington Post that the Karnes County Residential Center, operated by GEO Group, is under a contract with a similar pay structure, where it will receive full payment regardless of the number of beds filled.

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