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Federal Judge bans ICE detainers on immigrants

Public News Service reported that a federal judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to stop requesting that certain inmates who are up for release be detained longer to determine their immigration status.

This ruling adds more intensity to the debate in Texas and other states over so-called 'sanctuary cities', in which local officials have no connection with ICE, therefore creating a safe space for undocumented immigrants. The order bars ICE from requesting that local jails detain possible deportable individuals for 48 hours, when they would otherwise be able to leave, in order to check their immigration status. Immigration advocates have long said that ICE detainers are illegal and used to detain people stopped for minor offenses. 

Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said "In Dallas County, the sheriff said she wouldn't be honoring some detainers, and in Houston, there's been a very active campaign to try to convince elected officials there to end detainers." He then said ""We do believe that there seems to be growing momentum against these things."

ICE officials were reached for a comment but declined to respond. 

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Texas Court Rules Corrections Corporation of America Subject to State’s Public Information Act

On September 15, a Travis County District Court entered a final judgment that held Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, is a “governmental body” for purposes of the Texas Public Information Act and is therefore subject to the “Act’s obligations to disclose public information.” 

This was the first time a Texas court had found that a private prison company was required to comply with the state’s public records law, joining courts in Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont. 

CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
District Court Judge Gisela D. Triana entered the judgment in a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center. 

PLN filed suit against CCA on May 1, 2013 after the company refused to produce records related to the now-closed Dawson State Jail, including reports and audits concerning CCA’s management of the facility. CCA operates nine facilities in Texas, including four state jails. 

PLN had argued that CCA meets the definition of a “governmental body” under the Texas Public Information Act because – among other factors – the company “shares a common purpose and objective to that of the government” and performs services “traditionally performed by govern-mental bodies.” 

In the latter regard, PLN noted that “Incarceration is inherently a power of government. By using public money to perform a public function, CCA is a governmental body for purposes” of the state’s public records law. 

The court agreed, noting that “CCA failed and refused to disclose the documents” requested by PLN, which were “public information” as defined by the Public Information Act. Accordingly, CCA was ordered to produce the records; Judge Triana also ordered the company to pay $25,000 in PLN’s attorneys’ fees and costs, plus another $5,000 if it unsuccessfully appeals. 

“That is the right result and clearly what the Public Information Act requires,” said PLN attorney Cindy Saiter. 

CCA has vigorously opposed compliance with state public records laws and has lobbied against the Private Prison Information Act on the federal level. 

“Although CCA acts as the functional equivalent of a government agency when it runs prisons and jails, it opposes efforts to hold the company accountable under public records laws to the same extent as government agencies,” said PLN editor Paul Wright. “It makes you wonder what the company is hiding, and why it doesn’t want to be held accountable to members of the public whose tax dollars pay for CCA’s private prison contracts.” 

“The public saw truly awful things when we began pulling the veil from the CCA-operated Dawson State Jail last year,” said attorney Brian McGiverin with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Today, allegations are coming to light of CCA’s complicity in a widespread sexual abuse hazing ritual at the Bartlett State Jail. Is it any wonder CCA opposes greater transparency?” 

PLN was represented by attorneys Cindy Saiter with Scott, Douglass & McConnico, LLP and Brian McGiverin with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The case is Prison Legal News v. CCA, Travis County District Court, 353rd Judicial District, Cause No. D-1-GN-13-001445. 

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