May 10, 2017 – Apparently, the state of Texas is not yet done with legislation designed to wreak havoc on immigrants’ lives. Already this month, the legislature passed and the governor signed SB 4 into law, a draconian anti-immigrant will that will lead to more racial profiling, discrimination, and deportation. Now, the state Senate has passed SB 1018, which would license immigrant family detention centers — also called ‘baby jail — as child care facilities. The bill would allow prison firms to ignore regulations that other child care facilities must follow, and was written by GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison corporation.
Currently, mothers and children such as the ones fleeing violence in Central America and seeking asylum are only held in “baby jails” for weeks at a time, but the new bill would allow facilities to detain mothers and children for the duration of their asylum cases. It would also give the Department of Family and Protective Services broad authority to waive any minimum standards necessary in order to license the facilities. As state Senator José Rodríguez said:
[The bill] is placing a lot of faith in the ability of the state to protect these children, but the bottom line is these are prisons and there’s no question about that. There may be some TVs here and there, some bunk beds, but it is a secure facility, a baby jail.
In any case, instead of being detained, asylum-seeking families can simply be released to live with family or in shelters while their cases resolve — 95% of asylum-seeking families with legal representation show up to court.
In the last month, dozens of people have testified against the legislation — while only four spoke in favor, and three of those four were employees of the GEO Group. The bill’s author, Bryan Hughes, admitted that he’s never been to a family detention center and had only “seen pictures”.
As Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said:
It’s outrageous that the Texas Senate just passed a bill bought and paid for by private prison corporations whose sole purpose is to detain immigrant children for longer.
The legislation now moves onto to the Texas House.