Statement delivered by Jane Van Praag to County Commissioners Court, Jan. 23, 2007. Also, see Daniel K. Lai’s report on the meeting for the Taylor Daily Press.
We understand that the contract between Williamson County and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is up for renewal on January 31.
I am here to express my opposition to the renewal of this contract.
It is a moral wrong to imprison children. It is morally wrong to imprison whole families with children without exhausting all the alternatives, which would allow families to stay together while ensuring immigrants attend their immigration hearing.
Even Congress, when appropriating the money for this facility, stated: “The Committee expects DHS to release families or use alternatives to detention such as the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program whenever possible.” (House Report 109-079 – DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2006).
I urge the Commissioners’ Court to hold ICE accountable and request that ICE prove it is complying with what Congress intended. We need to know if ICE has exhausted all of the alternatives to detaining these children and families before you renew this contract.
There is only so much that can be done to the T. Don Hutto facility to make it more humane. At some point it becomes clear that it’s still a prison, with bars on the doors, where people are not free to go where they choose, and where children can only go outside at an assigned time.
That is why I am asking you to invite ICE to explain in a public and transparent way why the alternatives to imprisoning families in this way are not being used, before you renew this contract for another year.
If ICE needs more time than is available before the contract with CCA expires, I encourage you to extend the CCA contract for an additional 120 days only and give notice that you intend to terminate the contract with ICE unless ICE publicly explains what alternatives to prison they have tried and why they are not able to implement any of the alternatives to imprisonment.
The voters of Williamson County deserve to know that the federal facilities in their county are operated consistent with what Congress intended.