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Women Stuck in Hutto Detention Center

The Austin Chronicle reported in January that female asylum seekers are being detained in Hutto Detention Center without a court date. As we reported about the backlog in immigration cases in Laredo this month, the San Antonio court currently faces a 31-month lag in court dates for immigrants with 26,460 cases are currently pending. This number marks “a new high,” according to the Trans­ac­tion­al Records Access Clearing­house.

Meanwhile, the Austin Chronicle article shared the story of women like Celia (a pseudonym) who has no hearing date for her asylum case. Her lawyer Virginia Raymond says that she sees Celia carrying "utter despair."

Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator with Grassroots Leadership, commented that this situation represents a departure from a usual backlog. "There aren't too many cases on the docket; there's hundreds of cases not on the docket. That's not normal in any legal context… They are getting no information at all about essentially their life sentence," Casini said. "It's hard to explain just how completely unjust and abnormal that is."

While the Trump administration plans to increase detention capacity and add more immigration judges to fix the system, Casini commented that the ultimate goal is for closure of detention facilities. "The system is unnecessary and unjust in the first place. All these women locked up in Hutto don't need to be there. There are friends, family, and community groups like Casa Marianella here in Austin that can take them in. Instead, they are trapped in a cell, and left in the dark,” she said.

The article also commented that private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) will profit from the disarray of the legal system. Last fall, “CoreCivic's CEO said ICE expects the average length of detentions to jump as a result of increased interior enforcement, an outcome that benefits their profit margin.”

Meanwhile, the FBI’s investigation of sexual assault in Hutto Detention Center is pending and Laura Monterrosa remains detained after she spoke out in November against abuse by a CoreCivic guard.

Image source: Tray Frazier, Grassroots Leadership

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McAllen Residents, Newspaper Come Out Against New Private Prison in McAllen

Last week, a public hearing in McAllen allowed citizens to ask questions about a proposed 1,000 bed private prisons to city commissioners, mayor Jim Darling and city manager Mike Perez.    

According to the McAllen Monitor ("At Forum, Crowd Overwhelmingly Opposes McAllen's Private Jail Project," September 11), Florida-based GEO Group put in the only bid to run the proposed facility. Citizens raised concerns regarding the company's previous human rights violations in facilities around the country. The majority of the 60 people in attendance asserted that privatization of prisons allows for mistreatment and misconduct. Previous lawsuits filed against GEO Group pertain to sexual harassment of female employees and prisoner neglect and mistreatment

In addition, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined GEO Group $104,000, testified Astrid Dominguez who represented the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. "Handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse, neglect and misconduct," Dominguez said at the hearing. 

Over the weekend, The McAllen Monitor published an editorial ("Private jail in McAllen questioned," September 15th) raising serious questions about the proposed facility. The Monitor expressed concern about the GEO Group's civil and human rights violations ,as well as the facility's cost to taxpayers, claiming that private prisons have cost other Texas communities millions of dollars. 

McAllen is the proposed location because the U.S. Marshals Service allegedly needs a facility in close proximity to federal courts.  It appears that McAllen residents may not be convinced that profiting from prisoners is an ethical course of action.

 

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