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Karnes County Residential Center

As Hurricane Harvey approaches, ICE abandons over 50 women & children at a bus station

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) abandoned about 50 immigrant women and children at a bus station in San Antonio, reports the Rivard Report.

 

The 50 women and children were all Central Americans who had come to the U.S. seeking asylum. Once they arrived to the U.S. border, they were taken to family detention centers while their asylum cases were processed. These private detention centers are run by for-profit corporations, who contract with ICE to operate the facilities. ICE ordered the women taken to the bus station in San Antonio on Friday as Hurricane Harvey made its approach to the Texas coast. Due to the weather advisory caused by Hurricane Harvey, all buses from the station were cancelled, leaving the women and children abandoned in worsening conditions.

 

The Interfaith Welcome Coalition of San Antonio contacted various non-profits in the area, who helped find a church that welcomed in the women and children. Congressman Lloyd Doggett also spoke with ICE, saying "This is all really unacceptable. We need greatly improved communication and more attention to genuine humanitarian concerns."

 

This was not the only mishap by immigration officials in Texas as they responded to Hurricane Harvey. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced before the hurricane that they would be leaving their checkpoints north of the border open, leading to an increase of fear for individuals fleeing from Hurricane Harvey.

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Settlement reached with ICE over medical evaluations

A settlement has been reached between immigration officials and pro bono attorneys regarding medical evaluations at the Dilley family detention center, Texas, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit, filed in June, was from the Dilley Pro Bono Project, which works to provide legal services to women and children detained in Dilley, Texas. The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant was barred from visiting detainees at the detention center. ICE barred the legal assistant after they set up a telephonic medical evaluation for one of their clients. ICE policy states that medical evaluations must be approved at least 24 hours before the evaluation.

 

The settlement requires ICE to more quickly make decisions in regards to allowing medical evaluations, and limits when ICE can deny medical providers access to the detention center in Dilley, as well as the other family detention center in Karnes County, Texas.

 

This is not the first time ICE has limited attorney access to women and children detained in Dilley. Attorneys were denied access in 2015 after they lodged a series of complaints over due process violations. It is also vital that medical providers are given full access to the centers, since ICE has denied care to a young girl with cancer locked up at a family detention center in the past.  

A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

 Following her suicide attempt, Hakimi woke up in the medical center at Karnes and was then taken to a nearby hospital. Staff from the detention center gave her medicine but did not give a reason as to what the medicine was or the purpose of it. Hakimi did not know what the medicine was, and RAICES is currently requesting her medical records.

 Dr. Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, has interviewed countless individuals in detention and documented the effects of detention on children. “This is what happens when people get desperate,” Zayas said. “This woman is suffering a mental health crisis. But we know where it’s coming from. We know what we can do to stop it.”

 Dr. Zayas is right. We know what we can do to stop it. We must end family detention.

 

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Proposed legislation would provide state license to immigrant family detention centers

Karnes County Detention Center
State lawmakers in Austin have proposed a bill that would allow the state of Texas to license two family detention centers near San Antonio as childcare facilities, reports the San Antonio Express

Since the two facilities hold both adults and children, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) wouldn't license the facilities when they opened in 2014 following a large influx of Central America families seeking asylum in the US. In 2015, a federal judge ruled that family detention centers, such as those in Karnes City and Dilley, were not allowed to hold families for extended periods of time because the centers were not licensed and the families could not leave.

Following the ruling, the Department of Family and Protective Services made an emergency rule change which allowed it to license the facilities, leading to a lawsuit by immigrant families who had been detained in those facilities. A judge in Austin then ruled that the state did not have the power to inspect and license family detention center with action in the Texas Legislature. 

Identical bills in the Texas Senate and House would allow DFPS to license family detention centers, allowing mothers and children to be detained in jail-like conditions for extended period of times. It would also give the department permission to exempt the family detention facilities from the state rules governing child care facilities. Though the facilities have classrooms and play-areas, the American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined many negative aspects of family detention, and stated the facilities are "inappropriate for children and don’t meet basic needs or standards of child care". The two facilities in Texas are both operated by for-profit prison companies who would see an increase in profit if the bill passed, as it would allow them to detain mothers and children for extended periods of time. The Karnes City facility is owned and operated by the GEO Group, while the facility in Dilley is owned by CoreCivic.   

 

Immigration quietly increasing number of migrant families detained

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quietly been increasing the number of migrant families in their detention facilities in South Texas, reports The Monitor.

The number of migrants who are processed through ICE and released locally has dropped significantly, according to the Sacred Heart Immigrant Respite Center in McAllen. Less than a month ago the center saw around 300 migrants a day, with the center now averaging about 90 people per day. People from the respite center and RAICES believe that the number is based off of the number of beds available in Karnes or Dilley family detention centers, which hold primarily Central American mothers and their children seeking asylum.

Last December, a judge in Austin ruled that the two facilities could not be licensed as child care facilities. During the time of the ruling, there were about 1,700 people in Dilley and 600 in Karnes. RAICES, which provide pro bono legal services at the two centers, said the numbers are now closer to 2,000 in Karnes and 700 in Dilley.

A temporary Customs and Border Protection processing center near the Donna-Rio Bravo Port of Entry may also increase the number of migrants ICE can process. By adding an additional processing center, ICE has another facility to process individuals arriving at the border before they are transferred to a different, permanent detention center. This processing center adds to the 12 detention centers already located south of San Antonio. These, like Karnes and Dilly, are operated by for-profit prison companies that contract with the U.S. government.

 

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County Judge says family detention center is still an option

The application for a family detention center in San Diego is still pending, despite a court ruling against the state licensing family detention centers as child care facilities, reported Caller-Times of Corpus Christi.

Duval County Commissioners voted in July to begin contract negotiations with Serco, a UK-based private prison company, to turn an old nursing home facility into a family detention center. This decision came about after Jim Wells County decided against entering into a contract with Serco over the nursing facility, which sits in both Jim Wells and Duval counties.

The contract from Duval County is still pending following the court decision by District Judge Karin Crump that invalidates the rule that Texas Department of Family and Protective Services used to license family detention facilities as child care facilities. This decision impacts the  South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and the Karnes County family detention. These facilities are operated by the private prison companies CoreCivic (formerly CCA), and GEO Group, respectively.

Following the decision last week, both facilities released hundreds of immigrant women and children over the weekend, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials denied that the court ruling was the reason. County officials said that the recent release of families from other family detention centers in Texas, located in Dilley and Karnes, will not affect Duval County’s application to open a family detention center in San Diego.

"The only news we have is that our application is still being considered," said Duval County Judge Ricardo Carrillo. "No timetable was given to us this time."

 

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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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ICE bans Crayons at Karnes County Residential Center

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is restricting young children in an immigrant detention center from playing with crayons, reports the Guardian.   

The restriction comes after staff members at the Karnes County Residential Center accused the children of destruction of property. A spokeswoman for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) said the detention center staff enforced the ban after accusing children of damaging a table while their parent received legal advice. In a statement, ICE said that the children caused property damage to the contractor.

Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group, a for-profit prison corporation. Since last November, GEO has made over $57 million from the center, as reported by the San Antonio Current.

A spokesperson from GEO said that crayons were allowed in other sectors of the facility, but not in the visitation area. However, some parents are already noticing the difference in their children from not being able to use crayons during visitation. One 23-year-old detained mother said banning her children from drawing with crayons was already having an adverse effect.

"They are too young to read and if they just play can get too rowdy. We don’t always want them with us because some of the things we share we don’t want them to hear,” the mother said.

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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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