In March 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) moved more than 100 asylum-seeking women from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, to Louisiana, following protests in February over poor health conditions at the Texas facility, according to a report by the Texas Observer. Judges in Louisiana deny asylum at higher rates, Acacia Coronado noted in her report.
Bethany Carson, an immigration researcher and organizer for the advocacy nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the Texas Observer that many of the women seeking asylum were from Cameroon. Although approximately 80% of Cameroonians seeking asylum in the US due to political violence in their home nation are successful, in New Orleans judges deny asylum to about 85% of people who apply.
Grassroots Leadership held a rally in honor of these women on March 7, where one volunteer read a letter from women still detained at the ICE facility. The letter explained that at least 200 of the 300 women held at the East Texas ICE facility are Cameroonian, and those detained there still suffer from mistreatment, trauma, and medical neglect.
ICE officials told the Texas Observer that there was nothing unusual about the transfers, which were routinely undertaken “as needed for a variety of reasons.”
Nevertheless, Carson noted, that transfers impact women’s access to legal counsel and that fighting cases “in detention without legal help is a recipe to lose extremely valid cases.”
Despite these ongoing injustices, there appears to have been no corporate media coverage on this issue. In June 2019, Mother Jones reported that ICE officials were sending asylum-seekers to private, for-profit prison facilities in Louisiana run by LaSalle Corrections. As Mother Jones reported then, “Louisiana is one of the worst places in the country for immigrants to be detained, since attorneys are in short supply, the state’s judges are among the toughest in the nation, and ICE’s regional office denies nearly everyone’s applications to be released from detention.”
Source: Acacia Coronado, “Following a Protest, ICE Moves Asylum-Seekers For the Second Time in Two Weeks,” Texas Observer, March 10, 2020, https://www.texasobserver.org/following-a-protest-ice-moves-asylum-seekers-for-the-second-time-in-two-weeks/.
Student Researchers: Keyla Bharucha and Hannah Walsh (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)