Decision gives ICE six months to renegotiate contract; advocates stress importance of freeing women at Hutto Immigrant Detention center, including mothers separated from kids, immediately.
On June 26, the Williamson County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 to end the intergovernmental service agreement with the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center in Taylor, Texas. The move follows 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 Hutto Detention Center is the only all women’s facility in the country for asylum-seekers. Over 500 women are imprisoned there every day, locked up after escaping from violent gangs, domestic abusers, and others’ hatred and prejudice at their sexual identity or ethnicity. Many of the moms who crossed over recently seeking safety, their children cruelly stolen, were sent there.
Before the vote, hundreds joined a Jericho March to reunite families and shut down Hutto. Marchers called 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 immigrant families seeking safety. Over 2,000 children were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border in May and June, bringing Hutto to the forefront as communities all around the country opposed the federal administration’s policy.
“This is an important step forward in the fight for justice at Hutto and a victory for all who have raised their voices,” said Bethany Carson, immigration organizer and researcher at Grassroots Leadership. “We thank all the members of the Shut Down Hutto coalition for their work to make this happen.”
The decision does not immediately close the facility, but rather gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement until January to renegotiate a possible agreement. At least 35 mothers who have had their kids taken from them at the border are being held the facility, and some are at imminent risk of deportation.
One detained mom sent a letter from inside the Hutto detention center in June that details what it is like for a mother separated from her children and detained by ICE.
“All the mothers were crying in anguish, distraught from not knowing anything about our children, this is the harshest thing they could do, to take our children from us,” the translated letter text said. “They told us they were going to adopt our children out to other people. I was in the kennel for 8 days without bathing or brushing my teeth, they treated us so horribly as though we were animals. Sometimes they punished us and didn’t give us water or food. We slept on the floor and they gave us aluminum paper to cover us.”
On the same letter, this anonymous immigrant mother explained how she didn’t hear her children’s voices until 21 days later. She was taken from Laredo into the Hutto detention center while her children were taken to Michigan. Both her son and daughter claimed to be physically mistreated by immigration officers. Grassroots Leadership has launched the Hutto Deportation Defense and Bond Fund to provide support for women detained at the facility. On July 8, hundreds of Episcopalians from across the country will gather at the Hutto detention center for a prayer service.
“There is still much to do,” Carson continued. “We must first fight to ensure that every woman at Hutto, including all of the moms who have had their kids taken from them, are released from the facility immediately.”