Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh of Democracy Now! speak with Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based civil and human rights group, Grassroots Leadership:
What we know at this point is that as these criminal prosecutions are proceeding and as the asylum cases for these children and for these families continues, that people will be locked up in these giant for-profit family detention camps, the two largest of which are in South Texas.
About two years ago, or actually three years ago, the family detention centers went to the state of Texas and tried to apply for child care licenses in an attempt to essentially prolong the detention of immigrant children in these detention camps. We successfully fought back that effort in the courts. The state of Texas tried to rewrite the laws. Actually a private prison corporation, The Geo Group, brought a bill to the state legislature to change the way that licensing happens in Texas.
The for-profit detention centers in South Texas, there’s one in Karnes that is operated by Geo Group and one in Dilley that is the nation’s largest immigration detention center at 2,400 beds, that is operated by CoreCivic, which was formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. So these are the two largest for-profit prison corporations. Both of these companies are publicly traded and their stock soared yesterday, which I think gives you an indication of how investors are seeing this policy change as one that is going to benefit the private prison industry.
These facilities are prisons. There is no doubt about that. And I think that the testimony that we have heard repeatedly from the moms and the kids and some of the workers in the facility who have quit in protest indicate that these are no place for children. They’re no place for families. The trauma that people experience of being locked up in these facilities is real. During our litigation and during the legislative fight at the Texas capitol, we heard from pediatricians, we heard from social workers, we heard from formerly detained women and their children, all of whom said, “This is no place for a child.”
I think that everyone who is concerned about the welfare of immigrant children and immigrant families needs to stand up and say that indefinite detention of families in for-profit detention camps is not a solution to family separation. The push at this point needs to be to end family detention, to end family separation and to be really pushing to end the underlying laws that drive these policies.