Texas activists protest ICE prisons

On June 23, some 500 activists marked World Refugee Day by gathering outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an ICE detention center holding immigrant families with children in Taylor, Texas. The facility holds more than 500 immigrants, including hundreds of children. The Taylor Police Department was dispatched to the Hutto facility to prevent protestors from entering private property, but they did not try to stop the vigil.

The event was sponsored by Amnesty International, an international human rights advocacy group, and organized with other groups including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Code Pink, Houston Sin Fronteras, the Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, Texans United for Families, Children and Families for Humane Treatment Alliance and the Greater Faith Institutional Church. The event marked the 10th vigil at Hutto since September 2006. The Hutto jail is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which gets about $2.8 million a month from ICE, about $5,472 per month ($182 per day) for each immigrant detained in the 512-bed facility. (San Antonio Current, June 26; Daily Texan, June 25; Austin Chronicle, June 29)

On July 2, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to indict two protesters on felony charges for a protest in which they used a bike lock to chain themselves to a fence at a CCA detention facility in Houston. Houston Sin Fronteras members Ashley Turner and Benjamin Browning were arrested on June 4 by off-duty Houston Police Department officers working as security guards at the Houston Processing Center, run by CCA for ICE. The two activists were charged with possession of a criminal instrument–the bike lock–and trespassing. Randall Kallinen, defense attorney for the two protesters, said the district attorney’s office overreacted and used the charge to squelch his clients’ rights. “They were doing it for punishment and the fear factor to keep them from protesting,” he said. Misdemeanor trespassing charges are still pending against Turner and Browning. (Houston Chronicle, July 2; Diario El Dia, July 3)

From Immigration News Briefs, July 7

See our last post on the immigration crackdown.