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Dept. of Justice urged to investigate ADA violations in Karnes family detention center

 

Grassroots Leadership reports that an Austin-based immigration attorney has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate why the school inside of the Karnes Family Detention Center is inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments.

In a September 19 press release, Grassroots Leadership writes:

"Attorney Virginia Raymond, in a September 17 letter to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, described how one of her child clients, who had broken her leg while in detention and uses crutches, was unable to attend the charter school at the Karnes facility due to it being on the second story. There is no elevator at the for-profit detention facility.

The letter goes on to explain that the charter school for the children detained in the facility has been operated by the John H. Wood, Jr. Public Charter School District, but it is unclear if the company still operates it.

Raymond says by being inaccessible to those with mobility impairments, the facility is in violation of at least three federal laws: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Individuals with Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

"Ignorance of or indifference to three fundamental, well-known and widely-publicized civil rights acts by DHS, GEO and a charter school district is proof that none of these agencies or their individual employees have ANY business confining ANY human being,” wrote Raymond in the letter."

The Karnes detention center was licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in April as a "childcare facility." Attorneys for DFPS argued that licensing was needed so the facility could be subject to inspection. However, as Raymond's letter explains, a DFPS inspector with a mobility impairment would be unable to access the school and second story of the immigrant detention center.

Raymond went on in her letter and said "it boggles my mind that the Department of Homeland Security, a worldwide prison corporation that has been in business since 1984, http://www.geogroup.com, and a charter 'school' district, could all operate in flagrant violation of three federal laws that are forty-three (43); forty-one (41); and twenty-six (26) years old, respectively," referring to the three federal laws listed above, respectively.

  

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Controversy over Karnes Commissioners Court approval of GEO expansion

On Decemb

Karnes Commissioners Court
Karnes Commissioners Court
er 1st, the Monday after Thanksgiving, the Karnes County Commissioners Court convened for a rapidly summoned special session on the expansion of the GEO-run family detention center, now called the "Karnes County Residential Center." Though the privately operated prison company has already made record profits in the few months since it was granted a contract to detain immigrant families, they are now asking to more than double the facility's capacity from 600 beds to 1300.

Immigrant advocates and attorneys testified about the humanitarian costs of child detention and the sexual assault allegations filed by women in the detention center that are still being invistigated. Other community members were concerned that GEO is attempting to bully Karnes County into approving the expansion, despite forcing the county to shoulder the burden of investigating sexual assault cases and transporting victims. Some also expressed that many jobs were given to people outside the community and the income the county receives from the prison didn't justify the costs. GEO officials claimed that the county is contractually obligated to approve the expansion.

Due to the controversy, the commissioners extended discussion to the December 9th Commissioners Court meeting where they were to vote on the measure. However, after hearing more testimony of human rights abuses, reports of understaffing from a supervisor who works at the GEO facility, and contractual guidance from county attorneys, the decision was once again delayed.

GEO Groups' Karnes County family detention center is targeted by advocates over locking up a little girl with cancer

Nayely and Sara2
Nayely and Sara2

The Karnes County family detention center, operated by the GEO Group, was at the center of a scandal over the denial of treatment for a seven year old girl with brain cancer detained inside with her mother. 

Last week Grassroots Leadership highlighted ICE’s refusal to release a Nayely, a seven-year-old with a life threatening brain tumor, from Karnes County Family Detention Center even after her mom, Sara, passed a Credible Fear Interview, the threshold for qualifying for asylum.

ICE's refusal to allow a terminally ill child to bond out of detention to receive treatment is due to a new "no or high bond" policy for immigrants seeking asylum. The policy was enacted to act as a deterrant for people who may be considering seeking asylum here. According to the Houston Chronicle, Nina Pruñeda, an ICE spokeswoman, stated that bond is actually being granted on a case by case basis. Legally, two factors are used to determine bond eligibility: whether the person is a flight risk or a danger to the community. Some advocates might argue that mothers with children are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. 

In light of the new policy, we are very happy to report that Nayely and her mom Sara were released from Karnes last week after ICE was overwhelmed by intense media coverage and phone calls from people demanding their immediate release. Nayely's condition was evaluated at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin on Tuesday, September 9th.

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