T. Don Hutto Detention Center Still Open

Controversial private prison contracts directly with ICE to house women seeking asylum


Photo by Jana Birchum

After mounting public pressure and several allegations of sexual abuse, Williamson County commissioners ended the county's contract with T. Don Hutto Detention Center in June, marking a significant shift in government support of the troubled immigration jail ("Williamson County Commissioners Court Ends Hutto Contract," June 26, 2018). However, while the contract expired at the end of January, the Taylor facility remains open, sparking protest from immigration advocates, who gathered earlier this month at a Taylor City Council meeting to voice their disapproval.

The center, which holds roughly 500 mostly asylum-seeking women, is now run through a direct "short-term" contract extension between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison operator CoreCivic, says ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda. Bethany Carson of immigrant rights advocacy group Grassroots Leadership questions the process, noting that it appears there was no competitive bidding involved, including a request for proposals, as is standard with federal contracts. There is also no clarity on the length of the temporary contract. "It's very unclear what this contract extension means," says Carson. "We still have a lot of questions about how this facility remains open."

When the Chronicle asked about the duration of the contract and if there was an RFP bidding process, Pruneda replied, "That's all the information we are providing," following her one-sentence confirmation of the short-term contract.

The Taylor Police Department has entered into a security agreement with ICE for the T. Don Hutto facility, a memo of understanding that transpired the same month the county allowed its contract to expire, according to open records obtained by Grassroots. Under it, the department will help Hutto with escapees and provide emergency backup for disturbances. Email exchanges show CoreCivic giving the Taylor police chief the heads-up on public protests related to Hutto, including a rally to support sexual abuse survivor Laura Monterrosa ("ICE Retaliates Against Hutto Detainee?," Feb. 16, 2018). "This is pretty solidly a federal job, so why would Taylor PD want to be involved in a federal contract that puts them in the role of federal immigration enforcement?" asks Carson.

The open records request also revealed a letter written by Taylor PD Chief Henry Fluck that offered CoreCivic glowing praise and declined a gift card given by the profitable private prison company. "I am very grateful for the gift card you sent me," writes Fluck. "However, I am unable to accept it. As you know, it is the kind thoughts and actions that are ultimately the most important and I truly appreciate yours."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More immigration
“Troubling Data” From APD on ICE
“Troubling Data” From APD on ICE
Austin police assisted or cooperated with immigration officials nearly 600 times between January and December 2018

Mary Tuma, March 8, 2019

Bus Stops and Court Benches
Bus Stops and Court Benches
On immigration in McAllen

Martín Steinhagen, Sept. 28, 2018

More by Mary Tuma
Lege Lines: Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood ... Again
Lege Lines: Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood ... Again
Senate committee advances bill targeting Downtown clinic

March 22, 2019

Lege Lines: Sen. José Menéndez Stands Up for Military Bases, and Against Trump
Lege Lines: Sen. José Menéndez Stands Up for Military Bases, and Against Trump
San Antonio Democrat introduces resolution to protect funds for Texas military being diverted to border wall construction

March 22, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

immigration, T. Don Hutto, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, Williamson County Commissioners Court, CoreCivic, Laura Monterrosa, Taylor City Council, Taylor Police Department, Grassroots Leadership, Taylor Police Chief Henry Fluck, Nina Pruneda, Bethany Carson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle