The Williamson County Commissioner’s Court renewed agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) pertaining to the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor Tuesday. This center is a 490-bed facility run by CCA to house immigrants awaiting hearings and decisions on their immigration status.
County Judge Dan Gattis motioned to pass an agenda item that approves an inter-governmental services agreement between ICE and Williamson County. The following agenda item was also passed unanimously and will approve an agreement between CCA and the county regarding management and operation of the facility.
CCA provides the services detainees require and the agreement was set to expire on Monday. After ICE signs the agreement, it will be complete.
Click below to read the extended entry for the comments of Jane Van Praag who was in attendance and sent an LTE for publication: Read the rest of this entry �
Potential loophole left in contract, children not specifically excluded.
On the January 26, 2010 WCCC agenda items are numbers 21 and 22 relate to T. Don Hutto. Received this via email:
The Agenda for the Williamson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, January 25, 2010, contains a “consider and approve” item for a five-year agreement between Williamson County and ICE/CCA to house federal detainees at T. Don Hutto.
We had heard that the new program would house only adults, with a women’s section. Then we heard it would house only women. The problem is that, even though “women” are referenced, the general provision is to house “federal detainees”, but that term is not defined to include only adults or to exclude children. Clearly, the loophole allows for children to be brought back in.
Here’s the smoking-gun language for the loophole, from Section 3-A of the ICE agreement:
The Service Provider shall provide female beds on a space available basis.
The Service Provider shall house all residents as determined within the Service
Provider’s classification system.
This paragraph does not obligate “the Service Provider” to provide a minimum number of beds for women–in fact, there might be no beds for women at all if other categories of detainees (including children) use of all the other beds.
[Linked here are] both proposed agreements (with ICE and with CCA), which [were] downloaded from the respective agenda items’ backup documents on the county’s website.
Meeting begins at 9:30 AM tomorrow at the courthouse in Georgetown.
The Taylor Daily Press is reporting that the Williamson County Commissioners voted Tuesday to end their current contract with CCA. The full article can be here, County ends contract with CCA
Before we jump for joy, this is merely a “housekeeping” procedure so that CCA can renegotiate a new contract since the detainees that will be housed at T. Don Hutto will be women.
I was unaware that this was on the agenda, though I am glad that the WCCC was “forced” once again to confront their involvement with CCA.
We should spread the word about this new development. Maybe start pressuring WCCC to add more independent monitoring, increase it’s compliance requirements on CCA through the office of detention oversight and add ask that the contract has wording that insures that women will be treated humanely and compassionately while at T. Don Hutto.
A couple of key excepts from the article.
Williamson County Commissioners voted Tuesday to end their contract with Corrections Corporation of America, the contracted operator of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center for illegal immigrants.
County Judge Dan Gattis said the move was more of a “housekeeping” procedure than an indication the county no longer wishes to contract with CCA to operate the facility. Gattis said Monday the county is waiting for Immigrations Customs Enforcement to draft a new contract so the facility can continue to hold women.
The Taylor facility’s population of families had fallen in recent years. To help fill the 512-bed facility, ICE began housing female detainees at the facility. By mid 2008, an entire wing of the former medium security prison was devoted to housing women.
Without that contract in hand, Gattis said he felt a need to terminate the county’s contract with CCA just in case the ICE contract does not come through.
“To protect ourselves we’re giving notification to CCA,” Gattis said. “It’s one of those legal things we felt we needed to do because the funds come from the county.”
CCA’s contract with Williamson County will expire at the end of this year. Gattis said he hopes to have a new contract with ICE before that, but if not, CCA will be forced to cease operations at the south Taylor facility.
The county will work with CCA to come up with a new contract for housing immigrant women.
“I’m still trying to grasp the idea that after three years we are going to see some kind of closure on the detention of children in a facility they should never have been in,” Taylor resident Jose Orta, president of League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4721, said. “This is a victory. It really is a victory for people who believe that America has a moral standing in the world for human rights.”
And also Bob Libal from the same article:
“We think that is very important because there will be a lot less families detained,” Bob Libal, a Texas organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a group focused on ending immigrant family detention, said. “For those of us that have been protesting and advocating for the closure of Hutto and family detention, this is a really important day.”
Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis’ immediate reaction to the news: Good.
“My reaction there is a little bit selfish,” Gattis said. “We take a lot of pressure because families are there. I feel the pressure because families are there. The pressure being that we want to be sure it is done right. When you take kids out of the facility it takes some of the pressure off. Having women there is still some pressure; it still needs to be monitored. It still needs to be done right. I don’t take that responsibility away. We feel that responsibility as an intermediate in this process, but there is no doubt that when you don’t have children there, there is some pressure relieved.”
Gattis’ is that he’s glad he will no longer have to deal with ” “pressure” filled issue, not that families will be dealt with in a humane way now. Here’s a reaction from our comments section to what Gattis had to say.
Exposing his total lack of leadership, WCCC judge Gattis responded to this news with “Good.” Now he tells us! For about 3 years he’s played the mute, refusing to even respond to citizens’ requests for some sort of explanation as to why WC was involved in this treachery. Wouldn’t attend forums, claims he didn’t view the highly acclaimed documentary on this disgrace, always backed Carter on how “homey” the facility managed to be, insisted that the county’s role was simply to help the feds with their program–as if local government had no meaning; now he’s glad it’s going away.
Oh! Or maybe, he’s just under the impression that those who opposed it will go away and get off his back. (Maybe he’s wrong.)
There were many, many early missteps with this facility. As far as we know things got better but as Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman stated:
“A prison is a prison and we have children living in it…babies in cribs living in cells
Thanks to the new adminstration of President Barack Obama these despicable practices of the Bush Administration will finally be out of our county.
The Obama administration intends to announce an ambitious plan on Thursday to overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a “truly civil detention system.”
Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal government’s contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation — some possibly in centers built and run by the government.
The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees over the course of a year, and more direct oversight of detention centers that have come under fire for mistreatment of detainees and substandard — sometimes fatal — medical care.
One move starts immediately: the government will stop sending families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former state prison near Austin, Tex., that drew an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and scathing news coverage for putting young children behind razor wire.
Don’t forget that Clark Lyda’s film on the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, “The Least of These,” will screen on Monday night, July 27th, 7 pm, at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 West 8th. Admission is free. The film is one hour long and will be followed by a Q. and A. with people interviewed in the film and active in the struggle to end the practice of imprisoning innocent, traumatized children.
Our County Commissioners, who have the power to change those conditions but won’t, have been invited to be present. They believe that they needn’t change this or many other things about County government because they have apathetic, solidly-conservative, or overwhelmed constituents. To remind them that this is not uniformly the case, join us on Tuesday at 9:30 am at the Commissioners Court meeting at the County Courthouse. You can help give voice to those without power who cannot speak for themselves. For questions, please call Susan Wukasch, 963-3969.
LIBRARY TO HOLD FREE SCREENING OF “THE LEAST OF THESE”
FILM BY FORMER GEORGETOWN RESIDENT AND CITY COUNCIL MEMBER
The Georgetown Public Library will hold the first screening open to the general public in Williamson County of the documentary, “The Least of These” made by former Georgetown resident and City Council Member Clark Lyda and premiered at this spring’s South X Southwest Film Festival. The screening will be free of charge and begin at 7 pm, Monday, July 27th, in the Hewlett Room of the Public Library, 402 West 8th, in Georgetown. A question and answer session moderated by Bob Libal of Texas Grassroots Leadership will follow the film.
The film deals with the detention of immigrant children and their families in the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, a former medium-security prison in Taylor, Texas. Attorneys for detainee families became aware of distress among the children of their clients as a result of conditions in the Center, which is run by the largest private prison company in the United States, under a contract between The Department of Homeland Security and Williamson County. A lawsuit filed to improve conditions resulted in a more humane program of care for the children, but now those mandated changes are set to expire. The film explores the role and limits of community activism and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.
The film has been described as “quiet and measured“ but also “powerful and moving,” The Williamson County Sun said, “It is a complex story and Lyda and his team tell it in a straightforward narrative that holds one’s interest at a high pitch throughout. Excellent work, well worth seeing for anyone with an iota of interest in federal immigration policy and its on-the-ground ramifications…This was not a “gotcha” documentary, a la Michael Moore. It is an intelligent, thoughtful, and lawyerlike piece of work…” (3/22/09).
Come and view the film for yourself and learn more about this controversial topic. For further information, call Eric Lashley, Library Director, (512) 930-3551.
June 20, is World Refugee Day, and protesters gathered in the hot Texas sun Saturday with a message for President Obama.
“Close down T. Don Hutto!” they chanted.
The demonstrators called for the president to shut down the detention center, where refugees, including children, are held.
“President Obama promised change we need, and we’re saying this is change we need now,” rally organizer Jay Johnson-Castro said. “On U.S. soil, deep in the heart of Texas, we’re imprisoning children.”
Here’s a report received via email:
I enjoyed visiting with many of you at the T. Don Hutto protest in Taylor today … it was a rockin’ time, with over 300 people there, many from Houston and South Texas, including the Brown Berets. Jane L. Van Praag made a passionate speech (along with others). I have both video and still photos which will be posted in various places. (The oversight of the court master for the prison (derived from the lawsuit) ends September 1, so there’s a strong effort to get WilCo to amend its contract with the prison before that happens to continue the protections. The women and children behind the razor wire are still vulnerable.) For those of you who haven’t heard it, here’s Si Kahn’s original musical composition on with some pictorial overlay.
On Friday June 19th, “Juneteenth”, and Saturday June 20th, the City of Round Rock and The Voice of Round Rock will hosting the first annual celebration of Juneteenth. From the city’s press release:
The Voice of Round Rock and the City of Round Rock Parks and Recreation are teaming up for the 1st Annual Round Rock Juneteenth Rhythm and Ribs Celebration on June 19 and 20 at the Round Rock Amphitheatre.
“The city is excited to support the 1st annual Juneteenth celebration in Round Rock,” said Rick Atkins, Parks and Recreation director. “With two days of free festivities including a barbecue cook-off and a variety of entertainment and activities, Juneteenth will be fun for the whole family.”
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the emancipation of slavery in the state of Texas. Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures.
Check out The Voice of Round Rock’s events page for more information.
Also this weekend are two events regarding T. Don Hutto:
Friday June 19th
Live Music Fundraiser to help pay for the T. Don Hutto vigil and rally (see below).
Where: Twin Palms (214 Anderson Lane, Austin, TX)
When: June 19, 2009, 8:00 p.m.
Suggested donation: $3.00
Bands: Dragon Rojo, Karma, Bajo Influencia, DJ Murdock, DJ Victima.
Saturday June 20th
Vigil and Rally at T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.
Organizers are asking us to join them at this World Refugee Day event in east Williamson County. Join the walk and/or attend the vigil!
Details: Noon: Meet at Heritage Park, 4th and Main Streets.
1 p.m. walk from Heritage Park to T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center
2 – 4 p.m. Join the vigil, including music and speakers.
This event will be getting a good deal of attention from the media. It has been jointly organized by Williamson County residents, the Border Ambassadors, Amnesty International, and the national chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens).
The WCDP will also be participating in the Sheriff’s Posse Round Up in Georgetown. Anyone who would like to paricipate in the parade (@ 10 AM) or volunteer in the booth can contact Lindsey Ellerbach (WCDP Executive Director) at 388-1993.
The rally starts at Noon, at Heritage Square Park in Taylor. Those that attend will then participate in a “freedom walk” and rally in front of the T. Don Hutto family prison. You can view the flyer[.pdf] for the event.
The documentary on T. Don Hutto, The Least of These, can now be viewed online, go check it out.