1.27.2007

Imprisoned Immigrant Children Denied Education

Attorney Scott Medlock of the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project sent this letter to Taylor school Superintendent Bruce Scott, Williamson County Judge Dan A. Gattis and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center warden demanding that the children held at the "center" be given the seven hours of daily instruction as required by the Texas Education Code.

"As you know, state and federal law requires undocumented immigrant children be provided with educational opportunities equivalent to programs provided to other children," Medlock's letter states, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe.

Schools Superintendent Scott and officials from the Williamson County referred questions to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. A spokeswoman for that agency said that they were investigating and had no comment.

The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas is a for-profit facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a Nashville based company. CCA has a major contract with the federal government to operate Don Hutto as a prison (or modern day concentration camp) for immigrant families. The 512 bed facility, which some refer to as a concentration camp, has been the target of a numerous protests against the practice of incarcerating children. Williamson County receives a "kick-back" for each person imprisoned at Don Hutto.

Local residents and members of Texans United for Families, a coalition of community, civil rights and immigrant rights groups, have expressed outrage about the detention of families and children, saying it is immoral.

Speaking as a mother and as an ACLU attorney, Rebecca Bernhardt, said:

“It horrifies me as a mother to think of what it's like to not be able to watch your kids play outside when they want to or not watch your kids go to school and learn,” she said. “Not only is this a grave human rights violation it is also an incredible waste of taxpayer resources. There are alternative, cheaper ways of handling immigration that have been proven to work just fine as far as getting people to their court hearing.”