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South Texas Family 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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Family detention centers receive good reports—what did they miss?

Two South Texas family detention centers have received good marks from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The report was done in response to criticism by RAICES, a San Antonio non-profit that works with families in the two detention centers, and other groups who said sexual assaults inside  go unpunished and the detainees are treated poorly. Advocates said that the centers provide inadequate medical care, lack services for families who speak languages other than of Spanish, and that they hold children in jail-like conditions.

 

The report stated that medical care was readily available at the centers, though one of the facilities does not have a pediatrician. The report did not state which facility it was, though because both centers detain children, each should have a pediatrician available. It is questionable if health care is readily available, as there is currently a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stating they interfered with telemedicine procedures at the South Texas Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. Telemedicine is a way for prisoners to undergo medical evaluations on the phone.  

 

In September of last year, the Department of Justice was urged to look into violations of the American with Disabilities Act at the Karnes Detention Center when it was discovered that the school in the prison was inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments. ICE also banned crayons after a detained child "destroyed property" by accidentally coloring on a table while their parent received legal advice.

 

This report comes six months after a DHS Advisory Committee recommended the end of DHS's policy on family detention.

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ICE interfering with medical evaluations

A lawsuit has been filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of immigrants detained at the Dilley family detention center, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project was barred from meeting detainees at the detention center in Dilley, which is operated by CoreCivic, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies. The legal assistant had set up a telephonic medical evaluation without ICE's permission, after which they barred her from visiting.

 

ICE's policy required lawyers to get permission at least 24 hours in advance for medical evaluations. The lawsuit stated that policy interfered with the Pro Bono Project's ability to adequately represent their clients.

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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ICE Renews Private Contract to Run Largest Family Detention Center

According to Huffington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revised and renewed its' contract with a private company to keep operating the country's largest family detention center. 

ICE renewed the contract with Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) to run the South Texas Family Residential Center for another five years. The contract renewal comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would phase out their use of private prisons. While this announcement did not affect immigrant detention centers, such as the South Texas Family Residential Center, it did cause the Department of Homeland Security to review whether ICE should follow through with the DOJ decision to phase out using private prison companies. 

Under the renewed contract CCA will receive less money to run the facility. However, CCA will receive payment regardless of how many beds are filled at their facility. The contract is scheduled to last until September of 2021, but ICE does have the option to cancel it with 60 days' notice.  

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Senators press Department of Homeland Security to stop family detention

A group of 17 Democratic senators called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to end the practice of family detention, as reported by Mother Jones.

The group of senators, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine, sent a letter to Sec. Johnson saying family detention is "wrong" and "should be ended immediately." They cited research showing how prolonged confinement can hurt children's physical and mental health. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has taken a similar position as her running mate, and called for an end to family detention.

There are currently three family detention centers in the United States, one in Pennsylvania and  two in Texas. These centers have a history of poor medical care, lack of legal access, and sexual assault.

 

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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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"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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The quick and dirty way CCA won the Dilley family detention contract

Photo from NPRPhoto from NPRImmigrant rights advocates and conservative U.S. congressmen alike were shocked and concerned about the speed with which the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) won and began to implement the contract for the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX.

The center, created in an existing "man camp" for oil field workers, is set to hold 2,400 people and is rumored to be opening in the early weeks of December. Plans for the facility were announced in September.

The unusual contract involves a lease agreement between real estate group Koontz McCombs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CCA, and the town of Eloy, AZ, which is nearly 1,000 miles away. 

As a result of the contract being "passed through" Eloy — which already contracts with CCA — the competitive bidding process, environmental impact report, and other safeguard measures were completely bypassed in the interest of opening the detention camp as expediently as possible. This deal streams revenue to Eloy, but leaves them free from any of the liability that comes with running a private detention facility. 

The contract has been the subject of protests at the University of Texas, where the business school is named for one of the partners in the deal — Red McCombs. 

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