Movie and protest bring Hutto to forefront this month
CCA: "We are not in the business of making moral decisions on U.S. public policy"
"We said no initially"There's a new movie out - and also a protest later this month - about the federal government's detention of children at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center ("Hutto"), which is operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA").
The movie is called The Least of These and will be screened at the Capitol in Washington D.C. tomorrow. [Update 6/10/2009: The Least of These can be previewed on YouTube, viewed in full for free at SnagFilms, and is also available on DVD. Details at www.theleastofthese-film.com]
The protest is scheduled for June 20, the third consecutive World Refugee Day on which a protest will be held at Hutto.
Overview of child detention controversy and Hutto facilityThe complaints against Hutto center around these two issues: (1) whether the federal government (and its contractors like CCA) should be detaining children at all, and (2) if so, under what conditions should children be detained.
In regard to the first issue - whether children should be detained at all - everyone agrees on one point: families should not be separated. The question is how to keep track of them once a parent has been apprehended by immigration authorities. The federal government argues that keeping track of families requires detention of parents along with their children. Opponents argue that families can be successfully monitored through methods other than detention.
In regard to the second issue - if children are to be detained, under what conditions - was the subject of a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU in 2006, which resulted in a settlement. After the judge ruled that ACLU was highly likely to succeed, the federal government agreed to specific changes, and the Hutto facility was subjected to monitoring by a court magistrate through 2009. No violations of that settlement have been reported.
Opponents of child detention in general have targeted at least three entities:
- the federal government;
- Williamson County, Texas, where Hutto is located; and
- Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, which operates Hutto.
Because of CCA's role, it is one of the targets of the anti-Hutto protests. Prior to Hutto, however, CCA was seen as friendly to Hispanics and Latin Americans, who make up the majority of those held at Hutto. The company...
- ...boasts Donna Alvarado among its directors;
- ...has a history of contributions to the League of United Latin American Citizens;
- ...has been praised for its cooperation with the Mexican government to provide a Mexican GED program to prisoners from that country; and
- ...was even fined in February 2007 for hiring too many Hispanic employees.
Comments by Louise Grant of CCAThe Hispanic Nashville Notebook asked CCA how the company views the detention of children and families, or allegations of overincarceration - and whether the board or the company wrestles with the moral issues raised by opponents, or whether there is a limit to the kind of policies the company is willing to help implement. Here is the response of CCA VP of Marketing and Communications Louise Grant:
Our government customers don't ask us our opinions on the moral implications. ... They make public policy decisions. ... Once those decisions have been made, they decide "Is the public government sector going to manage these individuals, or is the private sector?" ... We are not in the business of making moral decisions on U.S. public policy. ... Where we can have an influence is in our own facilities.When describing the moment when ICE approached CCA to turn Hutto into a family facility, Grant said that CCA initially turned the government down:
Grant: Specifically in regard to Hutto, I can say our customer - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, again, they have been our customer for 25 years, they trust us - they came to us and asked us to operate a family detention center. We said no initially.
Hispanic Nashville Notebook: Why was that?
Grant: We said we have not had that expertise before - you know, we've managed adults. We've had a few juvenile facilities, but we have not managed a family detention center. Obviously, there was only one at the time in the country, in Pennsylvania, and we said no. And ICE came back to us and said, we've made the public policy decision that we are going to do this, and we want to partner who we trust; you've been a good partner for 25 years; we know you have high standards, you have integrity and strong ethics, and we would like you to do this. And we knew it was going to be an evolutionary process, because it was new for ICE and it was new for us, but we said OK we will do this. And we knew that there would be scrutiny. There was obviously the concern about safety and security to say, how can we ensure the absolute safest, most humane environment for these individuals. And our staff, who already goes through very rigorous training, went through a great deal more specialized training, and all of our counselors. And it has been an evolutionary process.
I've been to that facility several times. The warden Evelyn Hernandez is a wonderful woman from Puerto Rico who has the greatest sensitivity, and her staff has the greatest sensitivity to the mothers and the children and the fathers. We do believe that keeping those children with their families is something we're proud of. Again, we've worked extremely hard not to get involved in the public policy decisions...
Hutto TimelineJuly 2005
CCA issues press release announcing Hutto closure
CCA announces agreement with ICE that will keep Hutto open
Hutto re-opens as facility for families, including children; Tennessean reports that federal immigration policy of family detention helps company's bottom line
Protest against housing children at Hutto
BBCmundo.com covers Hutto controversy
Texas Civil Rights Project says Hutto children not getting schooling required by Texas state law
ICE releases residential standards, mentions Hutto
First media tour of Hutto
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children issues a report condemning certain conditions at Hutto
February 2007 photos of Hutto
CCA makes statement to Congress about how good Hutto is
Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children makes statement to Congress about its concerns
ICE describes good conditions at Hutto
Federal judge rules that ACLU is "highly likely to prevail" in its litigation alleging that ICE has abused its discretion because conditions of child detention at Hutto are not in compliance with federal law
Alibi.com interview with ACLU-TX legal director (H/T Aunt B)
U.N. inspector Jorge Bustamante is turned away from scheduled inspection at Hutto
U.S. says Bustamante turned away because of pending litigation with ACLU
Bustamante issues statement
Bustamante's full report
Salon.com writes Hutto story called "Kiddie prisons"
Houston Chronicle blog says Hutto will never be appropriate place for children
Amnesty International urges DHS not to detain children in advance of World Refugee Day rally at Hutto
ICE settles with ACLU over conditions at Hutto
Text of the settlement agreement
CCA says that reforms were not the result of litigation - development process "still ongoing"
Williamson County TX officials start planning termination of Hutto contract with CCA due to liability concerns
Movie release: T. Don Hutto: America's Family Prison
Another Hutto protest
New Yorker story: "Lost Children"
U.S. responds to U.N. report on Hutto:
ACLU says conditions at Hutto are "greatly improved"
ICE says Hutto is a model; ACLU wants no more children in prison
World Refugee Day vigil at Hutto ("to protest the use of Hutto, a former prison, to detain migrants and asylum seekers, including families with children")
Nashville Scene cover story on CCA and Hutto ("Locked and Loaded")
Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman rules CCA is subject to TN open records law
CCA launches "CCA360" PR site (with a section on children at Hutto)
Matt Pulle at Nashville Scene blogs about CCA360; CCA VP of Marketing and Communications Louise Grant responds in comments and also publishes a reply post on CCA360
Williamson County, TX votes 4-1 to renew Hutto contract
Dissenting Commissioner Birkman: "It's still a prison"
Commissioner Covey: "I haven't seen any of the things you [opponents] are talking about that endanger a child's life, because if there was, I'd be out of it"
Austin Chronicle: "Lipstick on a Doberman"
American Prospect: The Big Business of Family Detention
ImpactNews.com says no violations of the settlement agreement have been reported; runs down Williamson County's role
The Economist blogs Hutto and Least of These documentary (H/T T. Don Hutto blog)
AP story on Least of These documentary
Austinist interview with Least of These Directors/Producers ("We chose not to interview CCA officials because we chose to focus the film narrowly on the issue of family detention and not on the failings of CCA...")
Bill against family detention introduced in Texas legislature, names CCA
Houston's El Dia coverage on Hutto (H/T T. Don Hutto blog)
Business of Detention gets Webby nod (H/T T. Don Hutto blog)
Father John Rausch of Stanton, KY speaks out against child detention (H/T T. Don Hutto blog)
Maryland immigration attorney on Least of These (condemning U.S. but not CCA)
CCA donates to LULAC - which has had favorable opinions of CCA in the past - but LULAC is returning CCA donations now because of Hutto
June 20 vigil at Hutto for World Refugee Day
Thanks to Louise Grant of CCA for the interview.