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Immigrant Death in Detention Marks 12th This Year Under ICE Custody

According to reporting by Rewire, a recent report indicates that the number of deaths in detention is on track to be the highest in six years in Fiscal Year 2017. Rewire reported the recent death of Felipe Almazan-Ruiz in Texas on September 17, 2017 as the twelth death this year under ICE custody. The deaths bring attention to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s lack of medical care and neglect of detainees, as national reports have indicated a public health crisis.

Almazan-Ruiz was being held at IAH Secure Adult Detention Center, in Livingston, Texas, a facility operated by Management & Training Corporation. Activists have repeatedly called for the closure of this facility, known as Polk County Detention Center, for its restricted and inadequate access to medical care among other humanitarian reasons. The facility is notorious for detaining immigrants in dangerous conditions.

Photo from Flickr


Almazan-Ruiz was transferred to Polk County from Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. According to ICE, he died of cardiac arrest after being admitted for treatment of cirrhosis of the liver. He was transferred to Livingston Memorial hospital and then to the Conroe Regional Medical Center.

Grassroots Leadership issued a press release in response to Almazan-Ruiz’s death. “Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.  “Given the high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas, it is outrageous that the Trump administration is planning a massive new for-profit detention center down the road in Conroe.”  

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600 people protest the CCA family detention camp in Dilley, Texas

Dilley Camp Protest
Dilley Camp Protest
Over 600 protesters called for the end of the incarceration of immigrant women and children in Dilley, Texas on May 2, shutting down a highway along the way.

Organized by Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families, the protest brought people from Austin, San Antonio, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Dallas, Falfurrias, San Marcos, and Elgin, Texas; as well as from Silver City and Santa Fe NM, Des Moines IA, Washington D.C., New York City, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Orange County, California. Protesters began in a park in central Dilley and marched almost 2 miles to the family detention camp.

During the march, they forced the closure of Texas Highway 85. Once outside the gates of the camp, the protesters heard from people who had been detained, including a woman who was held in a Japanese incarceration camp during WWII.

The South Texas Family Residential Center opened in December 2014 as the administration’s response to the arrival of Central American women and children seeking asylum from domestic violence, organized crime and gang violence.

"Many of them are escaping from violence and torture, from abuse at the hands of gangs," Sofia Casini told the Texas Tribune. "To be put inside of centers with armed guards, where the kids are yelled at, it's all a re-traumatization process."

Operated by The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the South Texas Family Residential Center is one of two family detention centers in Texas, along with the Karnes County Residential Center, which is operated by the GEO Group and can currently can hold 600 women and children. Karnes is set to expand to a capacity of 1,200. The Dilley  facility detains 480 women and children, and is set to become the largest immigrant detention center in the United States with a capacity of 2,400.

In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said that facilities like the one in Dilley are "an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family units."

 

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"No Sanctuary: Big Business and Family Detention" premiered in Austin

The newest film by Austin-based filmmaker Matthew Gossage about family detention, "No Sanctuary: Big Business and Family Detention" premiered to an audience of over 80 people in Austin, TX last Friday.

The film, a short documentary running about 30 minutes, gives a brief history of family detention and the coalition that brought it to an end at the T. Don Hutto family detention center. It also follows a mother, Sara, who together with her 7-year-old daughter was detained in the newly opened Karnes Family Detention Center. Sara and her daughter, Nayely, won freedom from Karnes after their lawyer took their story to Grassroots Leadership and the media. Nayely has brain cancer and was not receiving medical inside the Karnes County family detention center, which is operated by the GEO Group.

The film is available for advocacy and organizing groups around the country who want to learn more about family detention and what they can do to bring this practice to an end, once and for all.

Watch the trailer below. If you would like to show the film in your commnunity, email tuff@grassrootsleadership.org

 

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Welcome new TPB blogger Eshe Cole

Texas Prison Bid'ness is pleased to welcome Eshe Cole to our blogger line-up. Eshe is the new Mental Health and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator at Grassroots Leadership, one of the sponsors of Texas Prison Bid'ness.

TPB Blogger Eshe Cole
TPB Blogger Eshe Cole
Most recently, Eshe worked as a Program Coordinator for the City of Austin helping to develop a pilot program addressing maternal health disparities for African-American women in Austin/Travis County. She also spent the past few years working with Mamas of Color Rising, a local group of women who organize around various social justice issues pertaining to poor and working class mothers of color.

Originally from Temple, Texas, Eshe attended the University of Texas at Austin where she studied Sociology, African-American Studies and most recently received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with such a great group of people fighting against the injustices of the Prison Industrial Complex. I am looking forward to contributing to the critical work at Grassroots and helping to create change that matters.”

Welcoming new TPB blogger Emma Randles

TBP blogger Emma Randles
TBP blogger Emma Randles
Texas Prison Bid'ness is happy to welcome new blogger Emma Randles to our line-up. Emma is the Young Adult Volunteer-Presbyterian Church (USA) at Grassroots Leadership, one of the sponsors of Texas Prison Bid'ness.

Emma is originally from Claremont, California and graduated from Gettysburg College in 2013 where she studied psychology and Spanish. She is very excited to have been placed at Grassroots Leadership for her assignment as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) for the Presbyterian Church (USA). The YAV program is an opportunity for young people to serve others both internationally and domestically while they focus on social justice issues, community connection, simple living, and vocational discernment. 

“I first became aware of the massive injustice surrounding the national immigration policies as a senior in high school,” she says, “and after many years of wondering how to approach effecting change, working with Grassroots Leadership feels like a concrete step towards bringing about a shift towards a more just system.”

 

Big Stories of 2013 - #3 - The campaign to Expose and Close the Polk Detention Center

As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year.  Our third biggest story of 2013 was the growing campaign to close the privately-operated Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas. 

About 90 miles northeast of Houston is what many advocates call one of the worst immigration detention centers in the U.S. The Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas is notorious for its substandard conditions, poor quality food and discriminatation against immigrant detainees.  The facility is operated by private prison corporation Community Education Centers.

Protest at Polk
Protest at Polk

In fact, the Polk Detention Center has been attracting the attention of human rights activists in Texas for some time. In November of 2012, Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families released a report on the conditions at Polk and recommended it's immediate closure.

That set the stage for 2013, when the campaign to close Polk ramped up with several actions targeting the facility. One such action came in April when 37 national and Texas-based organizations sent a letter to then-DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano calling for the immediate closure of Polk. The letter read in part: 

"ICE should prioritize release of immigrants into alternatives to detention and community support programs that are far more humane, less costly, and are effective at ensuring immigrants are able to appear at their hearings.  As a first step toward ending inhumane detention, we call for the closure of the IAH Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center." 

And on Father's Day (June 15), a caravan of protestors traveled from Austin and Houston to Polk to hold a vigil for the fathers detained at Polk. The event drew extensive media coverage and even the attention of Representative Lloyd Doggett, who said in a statement:

"I commend you for your efforts in highlighting the mistreatment in some detention centers and support you in your campaign to expose the truth and bring justice to this situation."

Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families also returned to Polk in 2013 to interview detained immigrants about conditions. Unfortunately, they found that nothing had improved since their previous visit in July 2012, and in fact, some things were much worse. 

This prompted the release of a second report on Polk, called "The Top Ten Reasons the Polk County Detention Center Still needs to be Closed." The report cites 10 serious human and civil rights abuses reported by multiple detained immigrants and renews the demand from Texas advocates to close the facility.

The on-going campaign to close Polk was intensified in 2013, setting the stage for advocates and communities to apply more pressure in 2014. 

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