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Texas Will Allow Immigrant Detention Centers Apply For A License To Remain Open

The facilities are located in two towns south of San Antonio and are managed by private companies that have contracts with the federal government.

Karnes County Detention Facility

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, DFPS, announced last Friday it will allow two facilities that house undocumented families, including minors, to obtain a license to remain open.

Most of the detainees at these facilities –located in Dilley and Karnes City, south of San Antonio—arrived in the United States during the surge of undocumented immigrants of 2014.

Last July, Federal Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, was breaking the terms of a 1997 settlement.

The settlement requires undocumented minors to be removed from detention centers as quickly as possible.

If the federal government can't do that, the children must be housed in facilities licensed by state agencies responsible for child welfare.

In Texas, that agency is the Department of Family and Protective Services, which, just last week, established a new category of facilities called family residential centers.

Dilley and Karnes City will be under that category and, therefore, allowed to apply for the pertinent license after March 1st, which is when the new category will go into effect.

The facilities are managed by private companies that have contracts with the federal government.

Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, manages the Dilley facility. Its official name is South Texas Family Residential Center.

The Karnes City facility is managed by The GEO Group.

Bob Libal is the executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which opposes keeping undocumented families in detention centers.

Libal argues the new category will help the federal government keep the facilities open.

"This was essentially an effort to help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the private prison corporations keep these facilities open when we know these facilities are dangerous for children," said Libal, referring to the decision by DFPS.

He added his group is exploring further legal options.

Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for DFPS, commented the only thing he could address was "what our agency did last week and that was to finalize the rule."

Professor Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston's Law Center, emphasized that if the immigrants detained at Dilley and Karnes City were released, it would be easier for them to get a lawyer for the asylum petitions most of them have filed.

Hoffman noted that "in order to get access to counsel," these immigrants need "a chance to be able to go out into the community, be able to, you know, talk to attorneys and, if possible, hire an attorney."

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