AUSTIN, TX — Today, immigration advocates reacted to news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for a 500-bed detention facility. The RFI appears to be an attempt to keep open the embattled for-profit T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.
“We are outraged, but not surprised. ICE grows more shameless every day and is as beholden to their private prison partners as ever,” said Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “The community has made it crystal clear: ICE is not welcome. This place is so bad that Williamson County Commissioners ended the contract so they wouldn’t be liable for its litany of abuses. So we’ll keep fighting to see this place close for good.”
The RFI was issued on August 9 and requests information from contractors on a 500-bed detention center for women within 50 miles of Austin. The RFI, first reported by Mother Jones, states that ICE will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) in 15-30 days, and anticipates bringing the facility online by January 1, 2019. Though federal contract law requires a fair and open bidding process for ICE facilities, the proposed date to open the “new” facility comes right before the previous T. Don Hutto contract is set to end, and CoreCivic/CCA continues to operate the facility as if nothing had changed.
In June, The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 to end the intergovernmental service agreement with the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. The move followed months of public pressure from formerly detained women, advocates, members of the faith community and Williamson County residents in the Shut Down Hutto Coalition who have called for the closure of the for-profit prison. The decision gave ICE until January 2019 to renegotiate contract or determine logistics for closing the facility.
Before the vote, hundreds had joined a Jericho March to reunite families and shut down Hutto. Marchers call for an end to the systems upholding the Hutto Detention Center and the Trump administration’s cruel zero-tolerance policies that criminalize and lock up families seeking safety.
The RFI comes as community members, including women formerly detained at T. Don Hutto plan to testify tomorrow morning, Tuesday, August 14th, before Williamson County Commissioners on CoreCivic/CCA’s refusal to pay detained women for their labor and other human rights issues at the facility.
ICE’s efforts to keep open a profitable lock up for asylum-seeking women comes as calls to dismantle and abolish the 15-year-old deportation force grow louder.
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.