ICE releases nearly 500 from Dilley, Karnes City detention centers over weekend

Source: Jason Buch, My San Antonio, December 6, 2016

A legal aid group representing immigrant families at two controversial detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley said the federal government released 460 women and children, about 25 percent of those being held, over the weekend. Some of the families had been in detention only a short time and have not yet had their credible fear interviews, the first step in the asylum process, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services said in an announcement about the releases. … ICE, however, said the releases “were scheduled as a part of normal operations and not in response to the court ruling.” “ICE is currently reviewing the court’s ruling on the matter of the operating license for the South Texas Family Residential Center,” spokesman Carl Rusnok said. “Operational activities continue without interruption at this time.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought licenses for the facilities last year after a judge in California ruled that the Karnes and Dilley centers were in violation of a court settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children. …

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Immigration detention centers will continue operating despite judge’s ruling
Source: Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune, December 6, 2016

Two privately run immigration detention centers in Texas will continue their normal operations despite a Travis County judge’s ruling last week that prevents the state from licensing the facilities as child care centers. Late Friday, state District Judge Karin Crump ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could not issue the licenses, which are needed to comply with a federal judge’s order issued last year. The centers are in Dilley and Karnes City and are operated by Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, respectively. The companies are under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the centers holding some of the tens of thousands of Central American women and children that have illegally crossed into Texas since 2014. The centers have been criticized by rights groups for allegedly operating more like prisons. … In an email an ICE spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the ruling but said “operational activities continue without interruption.” The Texas Attorney General’s office filed an appeal of the ruling on Monday but declined to give additional details about the case.

Texas Judge Says “No More!” to Licensing Detention Facilities as Day Care Centers
Source: Ruth McCambridge, NonProfit Quarterly, December 6, 2016

In Travis County, Texas, Judge Karin Crump has ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services must end the practice of licensing immigrant detention centers run by private prison groups as childcare facilities, whether or not they meet basic standards. The Texas facilities in question are in Karnes and Dilley; together, they can hold 3400 women and children. They are run by the two mega-groups in the private prison industry, GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America, and for the convenience of the feds are designated “state-regulated childcare centers.” The state made the concession, apparently, to “help out” the federal government after it was successfully sued twice for the conditions in which children were being held. The latest suit was brought in California and produced a ruling that advocates hoped would prevent further large-scale detention of families.

Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit opposing the use of private prisons, brought the suit, using as counsel Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA). Wesevich says there was never any intention of putting the child’s interests first in this arrangement:

The state’s executives admitted in documents and testimony that DFPS wanted to license these facilities to help the federal government, and not the children. Motive matters, and we believe it was the key to the case.

My Turn: What it’s really like inside immigration ‘baby jails’
Source: Sambo Duz, Arizona Republic, September 20, 2016

I recently spent a week at the euphemistically named South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the largest of the Department of Homeland Security’s “baby jails.” As a volunteer attorney with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, I conducted legal orientations and worked with recently arrived mothers and children to prepare them for the first step in the very long asylum process: the credible fear interview, in which asylum seekers must demonstrate a credible fear of returning to their country and a significant possibility of establishing asylum eligibility. … In the Dilley detention center, the tables are round and the outlets are covered — the place is baby-proofed, because babies are among the detained. Several times each day, a Corrections Corporation of America guard would knock on the door of the legal consultation room and ask the mother I was meeting with whether this lost, crying toddler was hers. … Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that children should not be detained in unlicensed and secure detention centers and that the government’s detention policy violates the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the standards for the detention, release and treatment of minors in immigration custody. Indeed, as a recent report by Human Rights First details, detention for any amount of time exacerbates the trauma these children have already suffered. And a growing body of medical literature has found that detention can have long-lasting health and developmental consequences for children. … Last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the establishment of a subcommittee to evaluate whether DHS should follow the lead of the Department of Justice and phase out the use of private prisons. This announcement comes on the heels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement soliciting proposals for 1,000 additional family detention beds in Texas. …

Largest Private Prison Company Could Lose Lucrative Family Detention Contract
Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, August 12, 2016

The country’s largest private prison company saw its stock price dip this month, after revealing to investors that it might lose a lucrative contract to lock up migrant families in south Texas. Corrections Corporation of America reported in an Aug. 3 earnings call that it has presented a new plan to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reduce costs at the South Texas Family Residential Center, located an hour south of San Antonio. … Immigration authorities have been shopping around Texas for a new family detention center that might replace the Dilley facility or a similar facility in Karnes City, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Losing the contract would put a major dent in CCA’s revenues. The 2,400-bed Dilley facility generated $244.7 million for the company last year, according to its most recent annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February ― more than 13 percent of the company’s total revenue. …

Licensing of Detention Centers Violates State Law, Hurts Families, Attorneys Say
Source: Alexa Garcia-Ditta, Texas Observer, May 14, 2016

Attorneys representing detained immigrant women and children argued in court Friday that Texas is violating state law and jeopardizing families by approving child care licenses for the state’s two family detention centers. Lawyers for the state and private prison companies that operate the facilities maintained that the families’ lawsuit will keep Texas from ensuring that children are fully protected. … Robert Doggett and Jerry Wesevich — Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorneys representing the plaintiffs — argued before Travis County Judge Karin Crump that DFPS that does not have the legislative authority to issue licenses to immigrant detention centers. The state’s main motivation, they said, is keeping them open and in compliance with the 1997 Flores v. Meese agreement, which prohibits detention of children in unlicensed facilities. Last summer, a federal judge in California reaffirmed the Flores agreement and ordered that children in unlicensed centers be released. … Jay Brown, an attorney representing the Corrections Corporation of America that operates the Dilley facility, argued that the immigrant facilities do not meet the state’s definition of “secure detention center,” which the Legislature wrote before the centers began housing children. …

Judge weighs fate of South Texas family immigration detention centers
Jazmine Ulloa, American-Statesman, May 13, 2016

As long as immigrant family detention centers remain open in Texas, the state Department of Family and Protective Services should be allowed to regulate them to protect the safety and welfare of immigrant children, state lawyers argued Friday. In a Travis County hearing, lawyers with the Texas attorney general’s office sought to show the benefits of allowing the state agency to provide child care licenses to the controversial facilities in South Texas. … State District Judge Karin Crump on Friday extended a temporary restraining order against the Department of Family and Protective Services, keeping the agency from issuing a child care license to at least one of the centers. Now, she is weighing whether to issue a temporary injunction that would invalidate the new rules all together. … On the other side, immigration lawyers and three immigrant detained mothers argued that jail-like facilities are no place for children. The mothers, who were brought in from Dilley, took the stand in bright T-shirts and jeans they said had been handed to them by detention center officials. They said they escaped gang violence and terror with their children only to end up in a place where they feel incarcerated. Their children have grown depressed and have trouble sleeping at night as guards shuffle through their rooms about every 30 minutes, they said. They said they are served the same dishes over and over, and the water tastes like chlorine and makes their children sick. …

Private Prison CEOs ‘Pleased’ Their Earnings Soared From Keeping Immigrant Kids In Detention
Source: ESTHER YU-HSI LEE, Think Progress, May 10, 2016

During separate conference calls to talk about earnings reports, two of the country’s largest for-profit private prisons indicated that they saw their profits soar from holding immigrant mothers and children in detention centers across the country. Revenues increased during the first quarter of 2016 for both the Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, executives told shareholders on conference calls. CCA saw a revenue of $447.4 million, a 5 percent increase from last year’s first quarter. The company’s press release attributed much of that increase to a federal contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. … The statement went on to say that the increase in profits was “primarily attributable” to its contract with the South Texas Family Residential Center. Located in Dilley, Texas, that detention center primarily houses Central American mothers and children who fled violence and poverty in their home countries and are now waiting to come before an immigration judge who will determine whether they get to stay in the U.S. or get deported back. …

… Similarly, the GEO Group reported a 17 percent increase, or $136 million, from the previous year, in part because of a 626-bed expansion at the Karnes residential center, another family immigration detention center located in Texas. Immigration advocates say that both the Karnes facility and the Dilley facility are plagued with ongoing human rights issues that often go unaddressed — and, because they hold children, they have been likened to “baby jails.” At Karnes, some immigrant mothers and children were allegedly kept in a dark medical infirmary which acted as a solitary confinement cell. …

Judge Denies Child Care Permit for Texas Lockup
Source: Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service, May 5, 2016

In a rare win for immigrant advocates in Texas, a judge stopped the state’s plan to grant a childcare license to a large federal immigrant detention center near San Antonio.      Travis County Judge Karin Crump granted Grassroots Leadership a temporary restraining order late Wednesday that prevents the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from granting contractor Corrections Corporation of America a license for the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, 50 miles southwest of San Antonio. … There are 1,368 people in the Dilley facility, which can house 2,400, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement told San Antonio’s CBS affiliate KENS5.      Crump set a hearing on the order for May 13, after which she could temporarily block Texas from housing children in the prison, or find the license valid.      Texas is desperate to have somewhere to house the thousands of women and children who, starting in the summer of 2014, crossed the border illegally and turned themselves in to U.S. immigration authorities and asked for asylum, citing the gang violence and poor living conditions in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

State Sued for Licensing Detention Center
Source: Madlin Mekelberg, Texas Tribune, May 3, 2016

A nonprofit organization has sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for issuing a temporary child-care license to an immigration detention facility in Karnes City. Grassroots Leadership, which opposes for-profit prisons, says the department has no authority to regulate detention centers or prisons and is asking Travis County District Court for a temporary injunction and restraining order to stop the licensing. … Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the department, said the Karnes and Dilley facilities were each issued daycare permits — unrelated to the childcare licenses in dispute — in 2015 so employees could watch children if their mothers have medical appointments or court appearances. He said issuing broader childcare licenses for the facilities allows the state to conduct regular inspections and “investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in the facility.” Documents from the department show that a March inspection of the Karnes center, operated by the GEO Group, uncovered six deficiencies ranging from insufficient mulch levels on the playground to unclear labeling of children’s’ allergies and health conditions in their files. …

Texas Licenses Detention Center for Child Care, Despite Deficiencies
Source: Alexa Garcia-Ditta, Texas Observer, May 2, 2016

Texas has granted a temporary residential child care license to a controversial immigrant detention center, despite “deficiencies” uncovered in a recent inspection. The initial license took effect Friday, April 29, said Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) spokesperson Patrick Crimmins. … According to the five-page inspection report obtained by the Observer, DFPS identified six “deficiencies” at Karnes. Inspectors discovered that a child was left alone in a bedroom without a parent or adult; an unnamed employee was found to be unqualified for their job; and children’s allergies and chronic medical conditions were not properly documented in their records. Additionally, cleaning carts and supplies were left unattended; the three on-site playgrounds had too little mulch to properly pad the equipment; and the list of rights read to parents and children upon arrival did not include “the child’s rights to be free from being threatened with the loss of placement or shelter as punishment.” … Last summer, a federal judge ordered the release of migrant children from family detention centers, citing “deplorable conditions” in violation of the 1997 Flores v. Meese agreement, which states that children should not be held in unlicensed facilities. Currently, 1,816 mothers and children are detained between the Karnes facility and the South Texas Residential Center in Dilley, according to an ICE spokesperson. Besides the two Texas facilities, the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania is the only other immigrant family detention center in the country. In late January, Pennsylvania revoked its child-care license, and the facility remains open. …

… Crimmins said Karnes’ initial license is valid for six months, during which the state will conduct three unannounced inspections before issuing a permanent license. The facility’s license can be revoked at any time should the agency discover “deficiencies with standards, violations of the law, or failure to meet conditions,” according a DFPS letter sent to Karnes officials. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which operates the facility in Dilley, submitted a license application in March and Crimmins said the facility could receive its initial license as early as this week.

State Officials Close To Approving Karnes and Dilley Childcare Detention Centers
Source: Ryan Poppe, Texas Public Radio, April 25, 2016

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services are close to a decision on whether to allow two private prison companies to register their immigration detention facilities as licensed daycares.    In an effort to address the influx of children at immigration detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley and bring them up to state standards, the Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America requested a special license from the state that would certify the facilities as childcare centers. … Manoj Govindaiah is the general counsel with the Immigration non-profit RAICES and said the conditions of these detention daycare centers aren’t what you would expect to see at your child’s daycare or after-school program. … Govindaiah worries that if the DFPS approves the two private companies requests it could mean longer detention times for mothers and their children because kids by law would then be allowed to remain at these facilities for longer periods of time. The Commission expects to vote on whether to provide a temporary childcare license to the two companies next month.