The T. Don Hutto prison is a for-profit private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. In 2007, after a year of protests, the ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic won a lawsuit settlement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that improved conditions at the facility. However, that settlement expires in August 2009, and advocates are concerned that pre-settlement conditions may return. ICE has also proposed three new family detention centers across the country, an effort that family advocates and human rights organizations have decried as a step backwards.
Activists are advocating for more-humane, less-costly alternatives to detention programs that keep families together and out of prison-like detention centers . A study by the Vera Institute found that more than 90% of immigrants on a supervised release program attended their immigration hearings. The average cost of a supervision program is $12 a day compared to reportedly over $200 a day to detain a person at Hutto.
Advocates will call on the Obama administration, specifically Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE special inspector Dora Schriro, to close Hutto and end the practice of family detention. Advocates will also call on the new administration to uphold to international standards as they relate to immigrant and children's rights, including ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Protestors are expected to join caravans from Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, College Station, the Rio Grande Valley, and Del Rio to join the World Refugee Day protest. A full list of endorsers, more vigil details, and caravan information will be posted at TDonHutto.blogspot.com. Co-sponsored by Casa Juan Diego/the Houston Catholic Worker.
This vigil was organized by a coalition that includes Williamson County residents, the Border Ambassadors, Amnesty International, and the national chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens).