AUSTIN (KXAN) — Grassroots Leadership is unhappy the T. Don Hutto Residential Center remains open, filing a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday claiming it violated the Freedom of Information Act.
Williamson County Commissioners terminated the county’s contract with ICE and CoreCivic related to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in a June 2018 vote.
Since then, the center remains open after ICE announced a new temporary contract extension with CoreCivic in January 2019 for maintenance of the facility.
Grassroots Leadership hopes its suit will compel federal court to allow public access to the contract and procurement documentation.
Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization headquartered in Austin, claims in its press release:
ICE has refused to provide any documentation of this new contract or its compliance with federal procurement law following two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by Grassroots Leadership
Grassroots Leadership states in its release that it has been eight months since Williamson County terminated its agreement with federal agencies about the T. Don Hutto facility. As part of that agreement, Williamson County would send sheriff’s deputies to periodically inspect the facility and talk with the women about any claims they wanted to have investigated.
They want to know “how long the contract extension will last, and how ICE was able to enter a new contract with a private corporation without engaging in a competitive bidding process as designated in federal procurement law.”
On Tuesday, the group announced the litigation publicly outside the federal courthouse in Austin along with community members and advocates.
The non-profit’s goal is to “end the abuse and confinement of 512 immigrant women who remain detained” at the facility in Taylor, Texas — a facility Grassroots Leadership considers a “detention center,” per its press release.
Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell told KXAN in January he toured the facility.
“I was impressed when I toured the facility with the professionalism, the dedication of all the staff that I met there,” Rydell said at the time. “They were very open and welcoming and pretty much allowed me to go to anywhere in the facility that I wanted to view.”
“I know there have been allegations of sub-par conditions within,” he added. “Certainly I didn’t see any of that.”
A city spokesperson for the mayor said he has not been back since January.
KXAN has reached out to ICE and Williamson County for comment.