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Child care licenses for ICE detention centers?

Child care centers exist to take care of children. The State of Texas requires most child care centers to be licensed, and to be licensed, they must meet certain minimal standards, set by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

ICE detention centers exist to enforce U.S. immigration law, and more specifically, to deter refugees and immigrants from coming to the U.S. without advance permission. The purpose of detention centers is NOT to protect children.

The aim of companies such as GEO, which runs — among so many others — the ICE detention center for families in Karnes City, Karnes County, Texas, and CCA, which runs — among so many others — the ICE family detention center in Dilley, Frio County, Texas — is to make money.

This summer, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (US DHS), of which ICE is a component agency, was breaking the law (specifically, an old settlement in Jenny Flores, et al., v. Janet Reno, et al…. a case that changed its name many times because of different office holders…). The Flores settlement said that children should be confined only if that was the least restrictive alternative possible. Children do not belong in detention! They belong, almost only, absent truly extenuating circumstances, with their families in homes. When children for some super-compelling reason can’t be with their families, if there is no other alternative, children can be in places designed and licensed to take care of children.

DHS/ICE has been breaking the law because it has locked up children with their mothers in detention facilities. Private, for-profit detention facilities.

We don’t know, yet, who at CCA or GEO talked to which of their friends in Texas state government, or more specifically in DFPS, after Judge Dolly Gee told ICE it couldn’t keep locking children up. But on September 3, the state issued an emergency rule allowing ICE detention centers, and detention centers run for ICE, to apply for “child care” licenses WITHOUT MEETING NORMAL CHILD CARE STANDARDS.

Say what?

The emergency rule doesn’t protect children, but it DOES protect CCA and GEO profits in Texas. For shame on the department charged with protecting children: has it forgotten its mission??

Grassroots Leadership, represented by Texas RíoGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), challenged the emergency rule in state court. TRLA pointed out that there hadn’t been any emergency, and so the state’s adoption of the “emergency” rule violated state law.

The State of Texas, about to face a hearing on October 23, filed a motion to remove (or transfer) the case to federal court, despite the fact that the case only involved Texas state law. Fortunately, on October 30, the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs, and sent the case back to the state district court in Travis County. There, the Hon. Stephen Yelenosky granted a temporary restraining order, or TRO, in Grassroots Leadership v. Tx DFPS, et al., on Friday, October 30, at 4:13 p.m. Until there’s a chance for a full hearing in mid-November, the State of Texas may not issue any child care licenses under the emergency rule.

This is a victory for the moment, but not necessarily a permanent one. Will Texas ultimately issue “child care” licenses to ICE family jails? We don’t know the answer yet. So far, the state and federal court have made good rulings. But we should never leave such crucial decisions ONLY to the courts.

What can you do?

•  Call your state representatives and state senators

•  Call DFPS*

•  Call or visit the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), of which DFPS is a part

Brown-Heatly Building
4900 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751-2316
Main number: 512-424-6500
Media calls: 512-424-6951

Tell everyone:

* The DFPS number above is NOT the number to report suspected abuse or neglect. REPORT SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT TO THE HOTLINE: 1-800-252-5400


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