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CCA Could Lose Family Detention Contract

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison corporation in the U.S., saw its stock prices dip as it announced to investors it may lose a contract to detain migrant families for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reports the Huffington Post.

After revealing to investors the potential loss, the company said they "can provide no assurance that we will be awarded a new contract for family unit detention, will successfully renegotiate our existing contract with ICE, or will be able to maintain the margins we currently generate from the contract."

The contract in question is  for the South Texas Family Residential Center, more commonly known as the Dilley family detention camp. If CCA were to lose the contract, it would put a major dent in their revenues. According to their most recent annual filing, the Dilley facility generated $244.7 million for the company last year.

Texas Blocked From Giving Childcare License to South Texas Immigration Lockup

A judge in Austin ruled today that Texas officials cannot lower their standards for childcare facilities in order to license a privately owned and operated immigrant family lockup in the South Texas town of Dilley, according to the San Antonio Current.

250th District Judge Karin Crump decided to block the state licensing of the South Texas Family Residential Center in court today. The Obama administration has used the facility, more commonly known as the Dilley family detention camp, since 2014 to detain women and children who are in the U.S. seeking asylum. Crump focused on special exemptions that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services made for immigrant detention centers.

Immigrant rights advocates and others have said that the exemptions allow family detention centers to bypass many rules that exist for children's safety, including one which states that children are not to be housed with unrelated adults.

According to the Texas Tribune, Crump said "The exceptions allow and have allowed for situations for children that are dangerous. And this temporary injunction addresses those concerns."

This ruling comes at an interesting time for the Obama administration’s family detention policy. Obama’s administration is currently appealing a ruling by a federal judge in California ordering the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reform how it detains immigrant children. As previously reported, federal district Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled that current family detention policy was in violation of an 18-year-old settlement and that children could not be housed in unlicensed, prison-like facilities.

As for the family detention camp in Dilley, Denise Gilman, the director of the University of Texas' immigration law clinic, said that even if licensed, Dilley and a similar facility in Karnes County would not comply with Judge Gee’s ruling, which states that children must be housed in non-secure (not prison-like) facilities. "These are still detention centers, no matter how you look at them," she says.

The case will proceed to a full trial in September.

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Judge extends temporary restraining order in family detention licensing lawsuit

Satsuki Ina speaks to the press before testifying at a DFPS hearing against the licensing.
In a May 13 court hearing, District Judge Karin Crump heard arguments on whether the state has authority to issue childcare licenses to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, according to a report from the Austin-American Statesman. 

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit — two detained mothers and advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership — asserted that the prison-like conditions of these family detention centers make them no place for children. Moreover, they argued that the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) cannot rewrite the rules to give itself power to regulate the facilities.

Four detained mothers testified Friday that after fleeing violence in their countries, instead of finding help they now feel incarcerated. They mentioned trouble sleeping because of guards entering their rooms every half hour, being served the same meals repeatedly, and children getting sick from water that tastes like chlorine.

One mother, identified as E.G.S., fleeing sexual violence in El Salvador, told the judge that her daughter had been sexually assaulted by another detained women while at the Karnes family detention camp.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the Texas attorney general's office, as well as attorneys for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, which operate the Dilley and Karnes family detention camps, argued that licensing the facilities would provide oversight that would enhance the safety of the children detained there. They pointed to the licensing process at Karnes as a success, as five employees were dismissed as a result of background checks conducted during the licensing process.

Pursuing licensing of the detention centers represents a major shift for the agency, which asserted for a decade that it did not have the authority to do so.

District Judge Karin Crump seemed skeptical of the state’s change of heart, asking, “How do you reconcile your own commissioner’s letter … where Commissioner (John) Specia very specifically stated that DFPS doesn’t have jurisdiction to do what you have done?”

Judge Crump extended the temporary restraining order preventing the licensing of the Dilley family detention camp until June 1 when she will hear further evidence in the case. She is now weighing whether to issue a temporary restraining order that would invalidate the new DFPS rule altogether that had allowed the Karnes family detention camp to obtain a license.

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Immigrant families sue to stop licensing of Karnes and Dilley family detention centers

On Tuesday May 3, immigrant families and Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership filed a lawsuit to stop the state of Texas from licensing the Karnes and Dilley family detention centers. The suit comes after the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services granted a six month license to the Karnes County Residential Center on Friday April 29 despite deficiencies in the facility’s inspection. A spokesperson for the agency also announced that the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley is expected to receive a license within the week.

In the suit, Grassroots Leadership and detained families argue that DFPS may not alter the standards of child care licensure to accommodate federal detention facilities without approval of the Texas legislature. Immigrant rights groups have argued that the state’s motivation for licensing the facilities is to defend harsh federal immigration enforcement rather than to protect children.

“Changing an interpretation of Texas law to help federal immigration officials enforce harsh detention policies is disingenuous and detrimental to the health of children in Texas,” executive director Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership told the Texas Observer.

In a previous lawsuit on the licensure in November 2015, Grassroots Leadership won a temporary injunction that required DFPS to provide opportunity for public comment before licensing the facilities.

A DFPS spokesperson told the Texas Observer that the agency is “reviewing and consulting with the [Texas attorney general’s] office” regarding the lawsuit.

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Debate continues on controversial effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to license two federal family detention camps in the south Texas towns of Karnes and Dilley. In November 2015, Grassroots Leadership won an injunction that prohibited the state from passing an emergency rule to license the centers and mandated that the public be given an opportunity to comment on the licensing. At the public hearing held on December 9, more than 40 people testified against licensing including legal service providers, immigrant rights groups, faith leaders, and a former psychologist at the Karnes family detention camp. Over 1000 people also submitted written comments to TDFPS in opposition to the licensing.

At the time of the hearing, state officials including Governor Greg Abbott stated that the purpose of the licensing was to ensure the well-being of the children held at the Texas family detention centers. However, the state initiated its attempt to license the facilities after Federal District Court Judge Dolly Gee issued a decision that these family detention camps violate multiple of the standards set by the Flores Settlement for the detention of children by federal immigration officials. One of these standards is that children must be held in licensed childcare facilities.

As the agency and advocates prepare for another licensing hearing on February 4, state officials now admit that the decision to pursue licensing of the facilities stems from this federal court decision. “The (judge’s) decision left Texas and the federal government with an option to regulate the facility, or have these illegal immigrants released into Texas communities without regard for the federal government’s immigration disposition process,” Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins told the American-Statesman. “The federal government therefore requested licensure to prevent this and Texas agreed.”

Grassroots Leadership says that state officials’ new position confirms that the well-being of immigrant children was not the motive for licensing. The organization’s Executive Director Bob Libal told the American-Statesman, “This is not about the welfare of children...This is a desperate attempt for the state to bail out the federal government’s immigrant detention regime.”

TX highlights from Corrections Corporation of America's 3rd quarter earnings announcement

On November 5, 2015, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) executives announced their 3rd quarter earnings results, including updates on the company's business in Texas. Check out the latest Texas updates from CCA below. You can find the full transcript here.

  • In October 2015, CCA closed the deal on the acquisition of Avalon Correctional Services, Inc. (Avalon), a for-profit community corrections company. As a result of the deal, CCA now owns or operates 17 re-entry facilities around the country, totaling 4,365 beds. Of the facilities acquired from Avalon, seven are located in Texas — a significant expansion of the company's control of private residential re-entry beds in the state. 
  • CCA hoping for contract renewal at the 1,400 bed Eden Detention Center under Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) CAR-16 procurement. Announcement anticipated 2017.
  • After a federal judge ruled that family detention violates the 1997 Flores Agreement, CCA currently awaits outcome of appeal process. In the meantime, in order to comply with the federal ruling, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX must operate as a "short term processing center" resulting in a reduction of the average length of stay for immigrant families at the facility. However, CCA is hopeful, stating: "... our government partner [ICE] continues to highlight the need for this facility and praises the high quality services and the open, safe and appropriate environment we provide to our residents at the facility."

 

Small Arizona town profits from family detention in Dilley

On August 5th, in the midst of the legal battle concerning the fate of immigrant families currently locked up awaiting their asylum hearings, News 4 Tucson investigators shined a spotlight on how a small Arizona town is cashing in on the detention of immigrant women and children in Dilley, TX.

CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX
CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX

The report broke down the agreement between the City of Eloy, AZ, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). 

After the surge of Central American immigrants arrived at the Texas border last year, CCA rushed to build the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. According to ICE spokesperson, Adelina Pruneda, 

"The contracting process for the Dilley facility was necessarily accelerated in response to the 2014 humanitarian crisis of families entering through the Texas Rio Grande Valley from Central America.  To accelerate the lengthy contracting process, ICE modified an existing contract with the City of Eloy, Arizona, to operate the Dilley facility. Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) has been contracted by the City of Eloy to provide day-to-day operation of the residential facility."

There was no bidding process and the city of Eloy gets fifty cents per bed per day to be the “fiscal agent”, amounting to around $438,000. 

Meanwhile, at ICE’s Phoenix office, activists held a protest calling for justice for immigrant detainees who have died in ICE custody at the Eloy Detention Center. 

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Attorneys denied access to Dilley family detention camp

CARA volunteers wheel legal materials into Dilley family detention camp
CARA volunteers wheel legal materials into Dilley family detention camp
In late July, pro bono attorneys representing detained families at the Dilley family detention camp through the CARA Pro Bono Project reported being “locked out” of the facilities after lodging complaints with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding “the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices.” Attorneys report that their clients were forced to sign legal paperwork without their attorney present, even after clients asked for their attorney.

Brian Hoffman, lead attorney for CARA, said that ICE officials are “coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States.”

Their complaint letter details incidents where attorneys were arbitrarily locked out of meeting with their clients until 5 minutes before their court hearings, or arbitrarily removed while in the midst of an interview with a client. Women were also intimidated into accepting ankle monitors, even when their bond had already been paid. Many recounted that officials told them that ankle monitors were a condition of release and that “lawyers have nothing to do with this matter.”

Attorneys are also pleading with ICE to permit them to instruct women being released from family detention about their terms of release, as immigration officials are not informing them of their legal responsibilities.

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Congressional delegation to visit Texas family detention centers

Congressional Democrats announce their tour of two Texas family detention centers
Congressional Democrats announce their tour of two Texas family detention centers
On Monday June 22 and Tuesday June 23, eight Democratic House members will visit two Texas family detention centers, the GEO-operated Karnes County Residential Center outside of San Antonio, and CCA-operated South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. The House members announced their trip and expressed concern over the Obama Administration's family detention policy in a press conference held last Thursday.

"It is not illegal to apply for asylum. It is the law of the land," said Rep. Gutierrez.

"Detaining children puts them at risk of mental and developmental problems," said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. "The people in these detention centers are...the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free of which Emma Lazarus spoke and which is emblazoned on our Statue of Liberty."

 

The members who will be touring the detention centers are: Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40). They are among the 136 House Democrats who signed a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to family detention. 

 

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Negotiations extended in Flores settlement, which could impact family detention policy

Negotiations based on this 1997 settlement are still underway.
Negotiations based on this 1997 settlement are still underway.

Negotiations between immigrant rights and government attorneys have been extended for another week in what been known as "the Flores case" after parties were unable to reach an agreement based on Judge Dolly Gee's preliminary decision.

As previously reported, some advocates believe that this litigation could cause dramatic changes to, or even end, the government's current policy of detaining asylum-seeking mothers and children while their cases proceed through immigration courts.

The outcome of these negotiations could determine the future of three family detention facilities, which together have the capacity to detain more than 3,000 individuals. These include two for-profit facilities in Texas: the Karnes County Residential Center run by the GEO Group, and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley run by Corrections Corporation of America.

The new deadline set for reporting on the Flores Settlement negotiations is July 3.

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