By Frank Knaack (Originally posted on Texas Prison Bid’ness)
Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
Today is International Human Rights Day. A day when people from across the world come together to reaffirm the basic rights that all people are entitled to, regardless of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The United States played a key role in securing the adoption of the UDHR. The UDHR has since become the foundation of the modern UN human rights system, or in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt “the international Magna Carta.”
While December 10th is a day for celebration, a day where we look back on the progress we have made, it is also a day for action, a day to speak out against the injustices and depravations of basic human dignity that still occur on a daily basis. In Texas, we need not look far to see that our state and our nation have too often failed to uphold these basic rights. The numerous immigration detention facilities in Texas provide a clear case in point.
As frequent Texas Prison Bid’ness readers no doubt know, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) locks up approximately 400,000 each year at a cost of $1.9 billion. To accomplish this horrendous feat, ICE contracts many of these detainees out to the for profit private prison industry, including to a number of private facilities in Texas. The result: a massive transfer of public funds to private corporations that wastes scarce tax dollars and results in the depravation of basic human rights. Just last week, ICE transferred immigrant women out of the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, a private jail operated by Community Education Centers, a for-profit private prison corporation after reports from inside the facility alleged a lack of access to medical care, including for pregnant women; spoiled food; no contact visits; and virtually non-existent access to attorneys. Allegations such as these do not signal the existence of a few bad apples, rather they clarify the structural flaw in the private prison model: the legal obligation to both ensure basic human dignity and maximize shareholder profit. These obligations are mutually exclusive.
Want to do something to stop this abuse? Join the Waco Dream Act Alliance, Hope Fellowship Church, Texans United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, and those affected by the immigrant detention system at a vigil in Waco for detained immigrants on International Human Rights Day (Saturday, 12/10). The vigil will begin at 2pm at Heritage Park at Third and Austin and will highlight the more than 10,000 immigrant detention beds (and the humans suffering in them) in Texas.