Austin Chronicle by Tony Cantu
Austin Chronicle by Tony Cantu
The Monitor Commentary by Sandra Sanchez
To understand the border, one must come here and realize the tactical and humanitarian considerations that agents and immigrants face.
Waco Tribune-Herald by Stephanie Butts
A nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel for asylum seekers says Waco’s Jack Harwell Detention Center should not be used to house immigration detainees prior to deportation.
Officials from American Gateways, formerly the Political Asylum Project of Austin, toured the Harwell facility in April.
They are urging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discontinue using it because detainees with no criminal records were being held in a jail, said Stephanie Taylor, an American Gateways attorney.
“It is clear that this is a penal institution,” Taylor said. “It houses individuals in criminal custody, and it’s very different from the other ICE facilities that our organization does work at.”
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The Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6, operated by LaSalle Corrections, held 274 immigration detainees Monday.
Loss of the $55.50 per detainee per day that ICE pays to house them would put a dent in operating revenue, officials say.
“Every little bit is important to us. . . . We definitely want to continue using ICE,” said Tim Kurpiewski, LaSalle’s director of finance. “It would definitely impact our businesses.”
LaSalle pays McLennan County about $4 million per year to cover the bond issue used to build the jail. LaSalle earns that by housing inmates from different governmental institutions, McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said.
The facility needs to hold about 600 inmates in order to cover expenses.
The McLennan County Jail sends its overflow inmates to the Harwell facility for $45.50 per day per inmate. Johnson County and the U.S. Marshals Service also send inmates to Harwell.
Taylor said Gateways simply is telling ICE to follow the guidelines its director, John Morton, set in 2009.
“The system will no longer rely primarily on excess capacity in penal institutions. . . . ICE will design facilities located and operated for immigration detention purposes,” the ICE website says. “These same reforms will bring improved medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal prudence and ICE oversight.”
ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said the organization is open to discussing any concerns with partnering agencies, but the Harwell facility has passed all its inspections.
A statement released by ICE said “independent detention inspections are conducted by private contractors with extensive corrections experience to ensure quality assurance over the review process, consistency in the application of detention standards and verification of corrective actions, if any.”
Taylor said the tour of Harwell revealed no outdoor recreation space, no contact visitation room and outdated law materials. “When you have materials that are that outdated, it really affects the ability of an individual to represent themselves before an immigration court,” she said.
Other concerns, Taylor said, were the lack of information given detainees about how long they would be held, their lack of access to an asylum officer and a confusing phone system.
“If an individual is afraid to return to their home country because they are going to face persecution, they have a right to see an asylum officer,” Taylor said. “Only one out of the 30 or so individuals we spoke to even knew this was a possibility.”
Felton said he doesn’t think ICE will remove any of its detainees from Harwell because it is a well-run and well-maintained facility.
“I would think it would be one of the last places they want to pull out of,” he said.
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Attorneys in Austin and Waco are sounding the alarm over the conditions at an immigrant detention center in Waco. They say the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility.
“Our interest in the Harwell Detention Center stems from a history of concerns about the facility.” said Denise Gilman, a University of Texas-Austin law professor. “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention.”
In fact, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by a private prison company who expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable.
“If any facility is unable to comply with the standards, ICE should ensure that immigrants are not detained there.” said Barbara Hines, also a University of Texas law professor. “It does not appear that ICE officials adequately considered the situation at the facility before sending immigration detainees there.”
According to ICE’s own proclamations, a penal environment is not appropriate for immigrant detainees — the majority of whom have recently crossed the border and have no criminal history at all. “It is very clearly a penal institution,” added Hines.
A recent visit to the Harwell Detention Center found several serious problems including a lack of access to an adequate law library and that what little legal materials are available are out-dated. People detained also report a lack of access to telephones to call legal service providers and inadequate visitation procedure for non-legal visits.
Under the National Detention standards, a facility holding immigration detainees "shall permit detainees access to alaw library, and provide legal materials, facilities, equipment and document copying privileges."
"None of the detainees whom we interviewed during our visit to the Harwell Detention Center knew that the legallibrary existed," said Susan Nelson, an immigration attorney in Waco, Texas. "Access to legal information is particularly crucial for people in immigration detention."
A lack of clean uniforms and little recreation options and time outdoors were also reported.
A troubling compliance inspection report, issued by the Office of Detention Oversight at the end of 2012, indicated that ICE management had not visited the facility in a year and that ICE did not keep proper records regarding communications with detainees housed there.
“Given the seriousness of the problems with the Harwell Detention Center, we have asked ICE to discontinue placement of immigration detainees at the facility,” said Stephanie Taylor, a staff attorney at American Gateways. “However, ICE has offered no response to our overarching concern that the facility is not appropriate for the detention of civil immigration detainees who do not present any security threat.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) numbers yesterday.
Texas Tribune by Joy Diaz, KUT News
As counties around the country start moving away from the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called Secure Communities, a group of Austin lawyers has threatened to sue Travis County over its participation in the program. Read the full story at KUT News.
April 1, 2014 & April 3, 2014
Baylor Law School will offer free assistance to immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
When? April 1, 2014 and April 3, 2014 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
What are some of DACA’s benefits?
Who qualifies? Immigrants who:
When you contact us, our law students will help you determine if you qualify for DACA and our services. While our services are completely free, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services charges an application fee of $465. Translators will be available. Baylor Law School will not provide additional services after the scheduled clinics.
For an appointment, call or email us at:
Texas Tribune by Julian Aguilar
Six immigration reform activists protesting the use of Secure Communities by Travis County, Texas, were arrested today.