T Don Hutto Residential Center at Taylor, TX
The United States Locks Babies Up In Prisons – The History of the Infamous T. Don Hutto Prison of Williamson County, in Taylor, Texas:
“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.”
“A prison is a prison and we have children living in it…babies in cribs living in cells”. Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman
Children Confined: Immigrant Detention at Hutto
The T. Don Hutto “Residential Center”, a 512 bed Medium Security Prison, in Taylor, Texas, was opened in 2006 under a contract granted to ICE (the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency formed under the Bush Administration after 9/11) and signed off on by Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis, to house immigrant families.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison corporation in the United States, was hired by Williamson County to administer and run the center for the housing of non-criminal immigrant families “while they are being processed through requirements of Immigration and Naturalization”.
Prior to ICE and Hutto, these people were allowed to return to their homes under supervision, while their cases were being decided. There was previously a 90% rate of complying with the conditions set by Immigration and Naturalization Services.
Normally, men and women were detained separately and minors, if they were detained at all, lived in residential facilities with the benefit of social services and schools.
But, at T. Don Hutto, entire families are incarcerated together. There is another facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where children are also being imprisoned. There may be many more of these “detention centers”. Lately, ICE suggested that there are (or soon will be) at least 23 of these facilities in the United States. It could be that there are many more than that. No one is talking about these places.
The citizens of Taylor, Tx, were not aware that children were being imprisoned at Hutto until about six months after the fact. The existence of these places, and what goes on inside them is a big secret. The detainees are transported in white vehicles with dark tinted glass, and no one is talking about what’s going on. Our government is not telling us how many of these places there are, nor what is being done there
T.Don Hutto-A Family Prison: Part I, Grassroots Leadership
Most of Hutto’s inmates are in the process of applying for political asylum, refugees from violence-plagued and impoverished countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Somalia, Palestine, Lithuania, Romania, Iraq, or some other one of 41 countries in the throes of political turmoil or war, or suffering the effects of climate change.
There are around 490 detainees there at any given time, and they come from many different countries. They have not been charged with a crime against the United States, and are locked in cells and forced to wear prison uniforms.
The inmates are immigrants, or children of immigrants who are in deportation proceedings, or who are applied for asylum and waiting for decisions. It can take up to a year or more to receive an asylum decision. Many detainees die as prisoners before they reach the end of their waiting time, due to untreated medical conditions or abuse.
Nearly half of Hutto’s residents are children, including infants and toddlers. Most of the rest are women, many of them in varying stages of pregnancy. The women receive little or no prenatal care whatsoever. The children are dressed in prison garb, eat very unsatisfactory prison food, and only receive one hour of play time, and one hour of schooling per day, in English only. The kids are getting sick from the food. There were complaints of lack of a pediatrician on site, lack of privacy in the bathrooms, rotten food, lack of age-appropriate toys, nothing to write with, etc, etc. It was also reported that children were threatened by guards that harm would be inflicted on their parents if they didn’t behave, among many other abuses, including rape of female inmates in front of their children.
The detainees are not violent, nor are they criminals, and sometimes there is no reason for them to be there other than that during a ICE raid on a factory, they had the misfortune to be found without their papers on them. After being detained and imprisoned, they are powerless to obtain the papers or evidence necessary to prove their innocence of any wrong-doing. Besides not having an opportunity to prove their innocence, they are also denied legal representation. And most of the time, their families are completely unaware of their whereabouts. They are not allowed any visitors and speaking to them is prohibited. In fact, entrance to the facility by the United Nations for inspection purposes was denied!
The families are only allowed to be together in their pods during the day time, but in the evening, the children are separated from the mothers, and locked into individual cells. If a baby or a small child is ill, or crying, the mothers are not allowed to go to their children to take care of nor to comfort them.
The kids have no toys, can not run and play outside like other children, and live in a constant terror that their mothers will be taken away by the jailers, and that they will never see them again. They do not understand why they are being punished. They receive little, if any, medical or dental care. They are not allowed to have even a stuffed animal to snuggle at night.
Many charitable organizations, like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and others, have collected toys and other things for the babies and the children at Christmas and Holidays, but officials at the prison will not allow the children to have them.
Public outrage has grown more and more with the passing of time and no solution to the problem at Hutto. In fact, there have been vigils, marches, and protests going on at T. Don Hutto for the last four years; vigils organized by the citizens of Williamson County, and joined by many other people and organizations such as the University of Texas Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic, LULAC, the ACLU, Grassroots Leadership, Amnesty International, and a coalition of attorneys, community organizations and immigrants rights groups called Texans United for Families, and many outraged Americans.
Elizabeth Kucinich, the wife of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, 2008 candidate for President, has been very active and a spokesperson for the children at Hutto. She has been present as a speaker at protests held in front of the center, has participated in the marches and vigils at Hutto, and lent her voice to the outcry against this criminal and barbaric treatment of innocent babies and small children in our country.
Elizabeth Kucinich Speaks at Hutto Vigil X on 6/23/2007
On World Refugee Day, June 20th 2009 a group of concerned citizens from Texas gathered at the Private, For Profit Prison, T. Don Hutto “Family Residential Center” in Taylor, TX to voice their concerns about this corrupt prison industrial complex that is spreading. This vigil was organized by a coalition that includes Williamson County residents, the Border Ambassadors, Amnesty International, and the national chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens).
T. Don Hutto Prison Protest in Taylor, Tx 1/5
In 2007, the University of Texas School of Law’s Immigration Clinic and the ACLU of Texas sued the government, claiming the center violated the rights of minors detained there, and that inmates were being detained in inhumane conditions, and won a settlement which dig gain some improvements in family rights and education standards at Hutto.
That settlement expired August 29, 2008. And then, at the end of 2008, Williamson County ended its contract with CCA. (Or at least temporarily, anyway…)
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION BAIT AND SWITCH: NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T!
To see the August 6, 2009 press release from ICE and the DHS go to http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0908/090806washington.htm
As a result of so many complaints about children being imprisoned and the abuses taking place at T. Don Hutto, and other facilities like it, President Obama announced that it would be shut down, and that an investigative research would be done to find other less restrictive alternatives for housing the immigrant families.
On August 6, 2009, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, released a press statement stating that ICE would be undertaking a major overhaul of the agency’s immigration detention system, which they would be implementing through the creation of a new Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP), whose role would be to design and plan a civil detention system for addressing ICE’s needs. This new agency would be headed by a Dr. Schriro, who would report directly to Napolitano.
At that time, John Morton, who is Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the Hutto Center would be closed, that the families would be housed at Berk, a smaller facility in Pennsylvania, and that they would be looking at other options for the detainees, such as supervised release. He also said that ICE was committed to ensuring the security, safety, and well-being of individuals in their custody. (‘Bout time! At least 107 immigrant detainees have already died in custody of ICE)
Now, here comes the bait and switch so adroitly manipulated by the Obama Administration!
Here are the other things that were said in the press release of August 9, 2009:
Discontinued use of family detention at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Texas. In place of housing families, we will propose that the Texas facility will be used solely as a female detention center. Presently, Hutto is used to detain families and low custody female detainees. Detained families will now be housed at Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania.
Appointment of 23 detention managers to work in 23 significant facilities – facilities which collectively house more than 40 percent of our detainees. These 23 federal employees will directly monitor the facilities and ensure appropriate conditions.
(23 “significant facilities”??? Notice they are saying they will only house female detainees.)
Now, be careful – here it comes!
NOW YOU SEE IT:
So… As a result of the ending of CCA’s contract with Williamson County at the end of 2008, and as it could be logically inferred by Janet Napolitano’s speech, everyone was happy and excited because all their hard work and activism had finally paid off – Hutto would be finally be closed, and right would prevail!
Williamson County Commissioners voted that they would end their contract with CCA, and announced that they would be giving notice to the private prison company.
Well, it turns out that it wasn’t true at all.
NOW YOU DON’T:
Williamson County just used that time to redact a new contract with CCA. When asked about the apparent conflict in the statements made, County Judge Dan Gattis announced that the move to end CCA’s contract was more of a “housekeeping” procedure than an indication the county no longer wishes to contract with CCA to operate the facility. Gattis said the county was waiting for Immigrations Customs Enforcement to draft a new contract so the facility can continue to hold women. Gattis said he only felt a need to terminate the county’s contract with CCA just in case the ICE contract did not come through.
Now for the kicker. Here is the Loophole, and how they got away with their “Bait and Switch”:
On January 25, 2010, the Williamson County Commissioners voted to approve a contract with ICE to house federal detainees at T. Don Hutto. 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 is the language used in 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.
You can see both proposed agreements (with ICE and with CCA), from the respective backup documents on the county’s website.
So, we are back at square one again. It is certain that both women and children will continue to be housed at T. Don Hutto, just as they have been all along. The promises were nothing but that – empty promises. (Can we all say “Guantanamo Bay” or “Iraq War”?)
And what is even worse, is that according to the statement released by DHS and ICE, there will be TWENTY THREE OF THESE DETENTION CENTERS with 23 respective directors, and with the corresponding new government agencies which will oversee their activities.
Very slick maneuvering, indeed! What amazing sleight of hand! And representative of everything the Obama Administration has done since it entered the White House.
BEWARE! ALL THAT SHINES IS NOT GOLD!
FOR MORE INFO AND TO FOLLOW THE HAPPENINGS AT T. DON HUTTO:
A STATEMENT FROM ICE:
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE comprises four integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit http://www.ICE.gov
MY QUESTIONS (WHICH SHOULD ALSO BE YOURS!) ARE:
JUST WHAT ARE THESE “PRIORITIES”?
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION, A PERFECTLY GOOD AGENCY, AND WHY IS IT BEING SUPERSEDED BY ICE, AN OFFICE THE EXISTENCE OF WHICH WE THE PEOPLE NEVER AUTHORIZED BY LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN CONGRESS?
OFFICE OF DETENTION POLICY AND PLANNING? (ODPP) WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
AND WHY DO WE NOW HAVE A DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WHICH HAS TAKEN OVER THE DIRECTION AND TRAINING OF ALL THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IN THE UNITED STATES?
I am not convinced that we should allow our government to be taken over and replaced by agencies that we have not authorized and that do not answer to the American People, solely on the basis of a threat of “Terrorists”, because that is a questionable premise. We already had perfectly good organizations to deal with everything – these new agencies are not necessary, and have been created without our consent.
What is going on here, is that our government has been hijacked. Our governmental agencies are being replaced by “new agencies” that we did not authorize, and that do not answer to the American People! They do not work for US! This new DHS has taken over the direction of everything, from our law enforcement agencies all across the US, to our Emergency Services, to Immigration Services, Border Control, the NSA, and God only knows what else.
America has now been invaded with a new and horrifying era of McCarthyism, racism, and a deluge of civil and human rights violations that make me sick to my stomach. Americans who defend the US Constitution, believe in Jesus, and are followers of Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, or Ron Paul, are now classified by this new DHS as TERRORISTS, and ENEMY COMBATANTS. Just like in the days of McCarthyism, when “everyone was a communist”. Just where are we headed here? Is this not even worse than when the US Government locked up all the Japanese families in concentration camps? Where is the outcry? This looks too much like Nazi-ism.
First, it was the Muslims. Then, it was the Mexicans. Then, it was all the “immigrants”. Then it was Americans who defend the Constitution, believe in God, and like Ron Paul.
Then next it was YOU And ME!
This means that, the same as the Middle Easterns they are trying to sell to us as being terrorists, they can apply the same principles to US as are applied to THEM. This means the application of the Patriot Act, such as no right to Habeas Corpus, no right to legal representation, no right to trial by jury, they can kidnap and take us out of the country by extraordinary rendition and put us in secret prisons overseas somewhere, they can use “enhanced interrogation” techniques on us (torture!), and signifies the complete denial of the rights afforded to American citizens by the US Constitution.
We are up to our asses in alligators here, folks! It’s time to open our eyes and realize it!
Not even the most backwards and cruel countries in the world imprison babies and little kids!
But the United States does!
C’mon, people! Cribs in prison cells? Toddlers in prison garb?
Is this what the country we were so proud of should be doing in our name?
Think about it…
Then go read this:
Message to Law Enforcement, Military, and Other Public Servants
And there’s more coming soon.
Stay tuned, folks, and I will clue you in on what’s going on down there in Mexico and why our government wants us to hate Mexican immigrants so badly.
I have plenty more to curl your ears and frazzle your last sane nerve.
For the meantime, please see: “The Great Mexican Oil Takeover”
And: “In Defense of the Mexican People – Torture and Abuse ”
PLEASE HELP STOP THIS TRAVESTY BY SIGNING THE PETITIONS:
SIGN THE PETITION TO CLOSE HUTTO NOW!
SIGN GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP’S PETITION TO END FAMILY DETENTION!
Free the Children!
ACLU – Immigration Detention
ACLU – Immigrants Rights – Challenges Prison Conditions at Hutto Detention Center:
University of Texas Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Texans United For Families
Grassroots Leadership – Their goal is to put an end to abuses of justice and the public trust by working to abolish for-profit private prisons.