The United States may soon have its fourth family detention center to hold women and children accused of illegally entering the country.
The Corpus Christi Caller Times reports that Jim Wells County
commissioners voted to allow County Judge Pedro "Pete" Treviño Jr. to start negotiating with the Department of Homeland Security and a company called Serco to turn a former nursing home into a family detention center.
This would be the third family detention facility in Texas. There is also one in Pennsylvania.
The news follows a ruling that stops the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from issuing Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, a child care license. There will be another hearing in September to determine whether the agency can issue child care licenses to the Dilley facility and to the Karnes County Residential Center, another immigration lockup.
"The answer to the family detention crisis is not contracting for new detention camps, regardless of where they are or who operates them. The answer is ending the practice of locking up kids and their moms once and for all,” Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement. “The Obama administration has a choice — will its legacy be ending family detention or codifying the largest trend in locking up families in this country since Japanese internment."
RAICES, a nonprofit that assists immigrants with legal services, has already launched a petition drive
urging people to send pre-written letters to President Barack Obama asking him to stop the negotiations between Serco, Jim Wells County and the Department of Homeland Security.
"As a Senator you promised to be an ally to the immigrant community, and as President you have been anything but. I urge your administration to refuse to work with Jim Wells County and the Serco private prison company to open yet another family detention center, i.e. 'Baby Jail,'" the letter states.
RAICES has repeatedly called on the administration to end the practice of jailing families.
As for Serco, it's a company that runs private immigration prisons in Australia and in United Kingdom. And it's been plagued by controversy.
According to the Guardian
, women in both those countries
have made allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against guards. The Guardian
also reports that Serco has been courting officials in Washington D.C. for at least a year.
Jim Wells' County Commission judge, Treviño, didn't respond to a request asking how long Serco has been in talks the county. Treviño scheduled a public hearing over Serco's proposal for Thursday.