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private prisons

Close Polk Immigration Prison Protest in Livingston, TX


On December 8th, 2012, people from Houston and Austin came to Livingston, TX to protest the Polk County Immigration Prison. This for-profit immigrant detention center is owned by the infamous Community Education Centers (CEC) and has been identified as one of the worst of the worst in the U.S.'s immigration detention system. As part of the national Expose and Close Campaign of the Detention Watch Network, organizers from Houston Unidos, Texans United for Families and Grassroots Leadership came together to call for the closure of this prison.

For more information:



New Texas "civil" Detention Center Unveiled - Reposted from Todo Austin

Texans United for Families (TUFF) protesting Wells Fargo in Austin, TX

Reposted from Todo Austin

  On March 13, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unveiled its new “civil” detention center in Karnes County, Texas, located one hour southeast of San Antonio. By the end of the month the facility will hold male migrants who are either asylum-seekers or have been categorized as “low-risk.” Karnes County contracted with private prison giant the GEO Group to build this detention center, which sits upon 29 acres of land and has 608 beds, with the possibility to expand to 1200 beds. The detention center is heralded by ICE as a model facility that is demonstrative of its efforts to move towards “humane detention.” Despite its shiny exterior and the presence of volleyball courts and soccer fields, the GEO group’s troubled history and record of human rights violations within its facilities are cause for alarm. The promise of “humane detention” itself is an oxymoron that community members should challenge. A gilded cage is still a cage.

Read more here.

Texas Groups Call on Wells Fargo to Divest From Private Prison Corporations


A coalition of Austin-based immigrant rights, student and faith organizations joined community and labor groups in thirteen major cities nationwide on Tuesday, January 24th in protests against private detention company investments. Protestors are calling for major investors such as Wells Fargo to divest of their holdings in the for-profit private prison industry.  According to SEC filings, Wells Fargo currently holds over 3.5 million shares in private prison corporation GEO Group and as well as shares in Corrections Corporation of America.

Participants gathered outside the Wells Fargo bank on Guadalupe Street across from the Universoty of Texas.  Organizers deilvered a letter to Well Fargo from community groups and faith organizations.

“Wells Fargo’s support of the GEO Group is even more troubling in light of GEO’s history in Texas,” said Carmen Llanes of Texans United for Families. GEO’s facilities include prisons, immigration detention centers, and juvenile detention centers where people have suffered from inadequate medical care and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Deaths, riots, and hunger strikes at GEO’s facilities are indicative of GEO’s culture of cruelty and underscore the need to end construction of new GEO facilities.

Photos by Rocío Villalobos

Click here for more info and photos.

Immigrant Rights Coalition To Call For Ending Detention Of Immigrant Children And Families


Contact: Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, blibal@grassrootsleadership.org(512) 971-0487;

Michelle Brané, Women's Refugee Commission, MichelleB@wrcommission.org, (646) 717-7191;

Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas, (832) 291-4776 or dgriffith@aclutx.org



Media Advisory 


Immigrant Rights Coalition To Call For Ending

Detention Of Immigrant Children And Families

AUSTIN – A coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations will call on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end immigrant family detention at a press conference set for noon on Tuesday, January 10, at the Federal Building, 300 E 8th St.

Representatives from the ACLU of Texas, Grassroots Leadership, and Texans United for Families will speak at the press conference. The groups will unveil a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement calling for ending detention of immigrant children and families.  

The letter is also signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, America’s Voice Education Fund, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Center for Constitutional Rights, Detention Watch Network, DreamActivist.org, Human Rights First, Human Rights Defense Center, Justice Strategies, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Immigration Forum, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Religious Institute, Rights Working Group, Southern Poverty Law Center, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Women's Refugee Commission, and more than 40 state and local organizations from across the country.

What: Press conference calling for end to detention of immigrant children and families. 

Where: Federal Building, 300 E 8th St., Austin, TX

When: Tuesday, January 10, noon

ACLU sues ICE, Williamson County Officials and CCA over sexual assaults at Hutto Detention Center

 The Tragic Costs of Immigration Detention


The Department of Homeland Security assumes that mass detention is the key to immigration enforcement. But in fact, our detention system locks up thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers. Throughout the next two weeks, check back daily for posts about the costs of immigration detention, both human and fiscal, and what needs to be done to ensure fair and humane policy at aclu.org

"Kimberly," a South American mother of three who fled to America to escape an abusive husband, wound up imprisoned at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention center in Taylor, Texas after being captured by immigration authorities while crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico. After immigration officials determined she had a credible fear of persecution if she returned to her home country, Kimberly was granted her release.

But her exposure to the dark and largely secretive world of our nation's immigration detention system was just beginning.

As she was being driven to the airport in Austin, Texas by an employee of Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company that manages Hutto, she was sexually assaulted. Her driver, identified in court papers as Donald Dunn, pulled over to the side of a dimly lit road and told Kimberly, under the guise of a "search," to lift up her arms and spread her legs, then lifted her shirt and began touching her breasts and grabbing between her legs. Dunn later ordered Kimberly to touch him.

Kimberly's story epitomizes the tragic costs — both fiscal and human — of mass immigration detention, an immense lock-up system that subjects scores of individuals to unnecessary imprisonment and brutal and dehumanizing conditions of confinement every year, with taxpayers footing the bill. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union is making public for the first time information from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that shows the breadth of the national problem of the sexual abuse of immigration detainees. The information is being made public in concert with the filing today by the ACLU of Texas of a federal class action damages lawsuit on behalf of Kimberly and two other immigrant women who were sexually assaulted while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Hutto, along with numerous others who experienced similar trauma.

Over the next two weeks, Huffington Post and the ACLU's Blog of Rights will host a series exploring the immigration detention system and the harm it has caused countless children, men and women like Kimberly. Throughout this series, we will examine the causes of mass detention — such as ramped up federal immigration enforcement and prison privatization—and its consequences, including the needless detention of immigrants for months or years; the warehousing of mentally ill U.S. citizens; the rape and sexual abuse of immigrant women; and the deaths caused by deficient medical care.

Throughout, we will challenge readers to ask "why?" — why are we locking up immigrants in droves, at tremendous cost to families, communities and taxpayers, with little gain to public safety? Detention has reached crisis proportions, quintupling from 6,280 beds in 1996 to the current daily capacity of 33,400 beds. In 2010, DHS detained 363,000 people in over 250 facilities across the country. Detention is extremely expensive, costing taxpayers an estimated $166 to hold each detainee each day or $60,590 per detainee per year, or an average $5.5 million for the entire system every night. And despite the administration's commitment to "detention reform," there are no signs of shrinking. Indeed, the FY2012 budget requests more than $2 billion for detention, a record-high request representing a 6.3 percent increase over FY2011.

What we have bought with these billions is a lock-up system that violates basic rights and yields few benefits in return. Although detention is often justified as keeping "dangerous criminal aliens" off our streets, DHS itself acknowledges that the people in detention overwhelmingly pose no threat to our communities. Indeed, more than half of them have never been convicted of any crime, and those charged as being deportable based on a crime generally have non-violent or minor offenses. Nor is mass detention necessary to enforce our immigration laws with alternatives like telephonic and in-person reporting, curfews, and home visits available to prevent flight from the authorities. Indeed, DHS's Alternatives to Detention programs had a 93.8 % compliance rate in FY 2010 and at average of $8.88 per person per day.

Historic budget shortfalls are finally forcing policy-makers on the right and left to recognize that reducing mass incarceration makes fiscal sense and better protects our communities. It makes no sense to be expanding a comparable detention regime that costs too much in wasted dollars and ruined lives, and does little to make us safer. Our series seeks a reckoning with an immigration lock-up system that has spiraled out-of-control.

The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have consistently downplayed the problem of sexual assault of immigration detainees.

Urge President Obama and Attorney General Holder to make sure all immigration detainees have the full protection of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                               

October 19, 2011


Contact:  Dotty Griffith, Public Education Director, ACLU Foundation of Texas; (713) 942 8146 x 103

or (832) 291 4776; dgriffith@aclutx.org


ACLU Of Texas Sues ICE Officials, Williamson County And CCA For Sexual Assault Of Immigrant Women


Suit Seeks Class Damages On Behalf Of Numerous Victims


AUSTIN -- The ACLU of Texas today filed suit in federal district court seeking class action damages on behalf of three immigrant women who were sexually assaulted while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor, along with numerous others who experienced similar trauma.


Defendants named in the suit include three ICE officials; Williamson County; Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private corporation in charge of managing the Hutto facility; the former facility administrator for Hutto; and Donald Dunn, a guard who pled guilty in state court to three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint based on his assaults of five women.  Separately, Dunn has been charged with four additional federal counts of criminal violation of civil rights and is awaiting sentencing on two of them.


The three named plaintiffs are identified in the lawsuit as Sarah Doe, Kimberly Doe and Raquel Doe to protect them from further harm.  All three were seeking asylum in the United States, fleeing sexual assault and extreme violence in their home countries.


“The fact that these women sought sanctuary in the United States -- only to find abuse at the hands of officials they thought would protect them – is wholly inconsistent with America’s self-proclaimed reputation as a beacon of human rights and protector of human dignity,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. 


The assaults occurred when Dunn alone was transporting women from the Hutto facility to the airport or bus station in nearby Austin.  Log books and other documents obtained by the ACLU of Texas indicate that in addition to the seven known occasions on which Donald Dunn is believed to have assaulted a total of nine women, at least 20 different male guards transported at least 44 female detainees alone between December 2008 and May 2010.  The lawsuit alleges that ICE, Williamson County and CCA were deliberately indifferent and willfully blind to the fact that Dunn and other employees regularly violated the rule that detainees not be transported without another escort officer of the same gender present.


“Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Whitburn, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Texas.  “Government records reveal that since 2007, 185 complaints have been made to the Department of Homeland Security about sexual abuse in ICE custody, 56 of which were from facilities in Texas.  Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it,” Whitburn added.  “Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries, and are terrified of being returned.  They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”


“It has taken enormous courage for these women to step forward in the face of potential retaliation and deportation to speak out against this injustice,” said Graybill.  “They’ve done it in the hopes that no other woman will have to experience the fear and violation they did.”


For a copy of the complaint, please see www.aclutx.org.

Hutto Sexual Abuse Case Background
Their Stories In Their Own Words
The Named Plaintiffs For their stories in their own words:

- Kimberly Doe, 37, is a mother of three from a country in South America. She married when she was 19, and her husband began beating her shortly afterwards. The abuse escalated over time, and he raped her, dragged her around by her hair, punched her in the face and locked her inside for a week. On the advice of her mother-in-law, she fled to another country when he threatened to kill her. When he found her there, she fled to the United States. She was apprehended after entering the United States without inspection and transferred to the T. Don Hutto facility, where she passed a credible fear interview and gained the ability to bond out while she pursued an asylum claim. While being transported to the Austin airport, she was sexually assaulted twice by Donald Dunn. First, he forced her to step outside the secure compartment in the back of the vehicle and groped her; then he assaulted her in the front seat of the vehicle.

 - Sarah Doe, a 24-year-old from an African country, was repeatedly raped by a military commander at the base where she was assigned to serve her county’s national service requirement. She fled through eight other countries to reach the United States where she hoped to gain political asylum, and was apprehended after entering without inspection and detained at Hutto. She passed a credible fear interview and gained the ability to bond out while she pursued an asylum claim. While being driven to the Austin airport by Donald Dunn, the guard stopped the vehicle, required her to step out of the secure compartment in the vehicle, and assaulted her.

 - Raquel Doe is a 34-year-old mother of four whose husband was murdered in her home in Central America. After her husband’s killers began threatening her, she fled to the United States. She was apprehended entering the United States without inspection and detained at Hutto. Raquel passed a credible fear interview and gained the ability to bond out while she pursued an asylum claim. While being driven to the Austin airport by Donald Dunn, she was groped after he required her to step out of the secure compartment of the vehicle. Dunn ordered her to get back into the secure compartment of the vehicle where he joined her and attempted to rape her. Upon arriving at the Austin airport, a ticket agent noticed Raquel had been crying and asked why. When Raquel reported she had just experienced an attempted rape, the ticket agent alerted local authorities, who briefly interviewed her before sending her on her way. Raquel’s outcry resulted in a joint investigation by ICE and Williamson County authorities which ultimately led to the arrest and prosecution of Donald Dunn.

Other Victims

ACLU of Texas attorneys have not been able to locate the remaining six victims. We have no way of knowing if any of these women are represented by immigration counsel or have pursued U visas.

*A U visa gives victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years.

"Stop the Stagecoach" - Call on Wells Fargo to Divest from Private Prison Industry


Texans United For Families (TUFF), a local human rights group working to end immigrant detention and deportation, protested at the Austin Wells Fargo headquarters on Friday, July 1st as part of the National Private Prison Divestment Day. TUFF held the protest to call on Wells Fargo to cease all investments into the private prison industry.

Audio of Texans United For Families' statement

on Wells Fargo Divestment

"Stop The Stagecoach" Call on Wells Fargo to Divest from Private Prison Industry from Texans United For Families on Vimeo.

July 1st was a national day of action targeting the companies and investment firms which make the private prison industry possible. The Austin protest was one of over a dozen actions held across the United States calling for an end to an unjust system of profit over people.


Members of TUFF were at the corner of Congress Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street at lunchtime chanting, handing out flyers and engaging the public on Wells Fargo's role in the anti-immigrant movement and industry. The protest ended with three members of TUFF delivering a letter to a Wells Fargo representative asking the bank to act according to its own stated commitment to community values.

Texans United For Families stated "Wells Fargo is a major investor in the private prison corporation the GEO Group, holding over 3.5 million shares in GEO valued at $92 million. GEO has a history of human rights violations, especially in their Texas facilities, leading to deaths, riots, and hunger strikes. Even so, GEO continues profiting from billions in taxpayer dollars. Wells Fargo’s investment in GEO is supporting the construction of a new detention center in Karnes County, TX. GEO’s history points to future human rights violations at this facility. Wells Fargo claims to value community-building and ethics, yet they are investing in and profiting from an industry with unethical practices that harm our communities and prevent our feeling of belonging to a community."


Tell ICE: No New Immigrant Detention Center in Karnes Co., Texas!

Sign the petition to stop the construction of the new private prison for immigrants in Texas!


The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted with a private prison company with a history of abuse to build a new immigration detention center in Karnes County, Texas. The center is meant to hold asylum-seekers and other low-level immigration detainees.

Today, more than 33,000 people languish in the U.S.'s vast and troubled immigration detention system, with more than 10,000 immigrant detention beds located in Texas alone.   Despite a mandate for detention reform, ICE has contracted with the GEO Group, a for-profit prison company with a long track record of abuse and mismanagement at their Texas prisons and detention centers, to build this "civil" detention center.

The GEO Group has had a number of contracts in Texas terminated in recent years after serious allegations of abuse and neglect.

New, abusive for-profit detention centers are not the answer! Sign the petition to tell Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to stop construction of the new detention center in Karnes County, Texas, and to prioritize release and alternatives to detention programs for asylum-seekers and other immigrants.

Texans United For Families-Cesar Chavez Rally Austin 2011


No New Detention Centers in Texas!


I write to express my firm opposition to plans by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to contract for a new private immigration detention center in Karnes County, Texas.


ICE has stated that the Karnes County detention center will detain asylum-seekers and immigrants at the lowest level of immigration custody. Private prison contractor GEO Group will build and operate the facility under contract with Karnes County.


I am disappointed that ICE is using its mandate for detention reform to construct new detention facilities for people who should be released on bond or into alternatives programs. Instead of building new immigration detention centers, the administration should prioritize release of immigrants pending hearings, and the use of more humane and more cost effective alternatives to detention programs.


I am also troubled that the process in selecting the site and contractor for the facility has consistently lacked transparency and input from communities in Texas. Community members first found out about the facility’s construction after the GEO Group issued a press release in December 2010. The County Judge Alger Kendall told residents during a Karnes County Commissioners’ Court hearing that “The federal government said this was not to be discussed by anyone,” a statement that hardly reflects a commitment to effective oversight and transparency when making a decision where people’s lives are at stake.


Furthermore, the GEO Group, the private prison company contracted to build and operate the facility, has a long track record of abuse and mismanagement at their Texas prisons and detention centers. While ICE has denied knowledge of problems at GEO’s facilities, the company’s problems have been repeatedly highlighted in public news reports. The GEO Group has had a number of contracts in Texas terminated in recent years after serious allegations of abuse and neglect.


In February, a coalition of 15 Texas-based civil and immigrant rights organizations sent you a letter calling on you to immediately end the contract to build the new Karnes County detention center and to investigate options that would prioritize alternatives to detention for asylum seekers and those immigrants that pose no security threat. 

I urgently add my voice to that call.

[Your name]

Texas Groups Oppose new GEO Group Immigration Detention Center in Karnes City


Texas Groups Oppose new GEO Group Immigration Detention Center in Karnes City
Civil Rights Groups Call on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Karnes County to Reject Private Detention Center

Dignity Not Detention National Day of Action in Austin


Human rights groups around the country participated in a National Day of Action yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Customs and Enforcement's (ICE) 2009 detention reform announcement. Activists called for an end to the human rights abuses in detention centers, the restoration of due process in the enforcement of immigration laws, and the implementation of cost saving alternatives.


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