Austin, Texas — A corrections corporation that manages a family detention center for Immigration and Customs Enforcement received a child care license from the state of Texas in May, raising questions among attorneys and activists as to whether the company is trying to comply with a court ruling forbidding the detention of minor children in unlicensed facilities.
A second company is still awaiting approval for its license, according to Patrick Crimmins, media relations manager of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, the department that oversees the licensing.
The applications were filed by the Corrections Corporation of America for the South Texas Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and by GEO Group for the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. Both facilities, which house children typically accompanied by their mothers, paid a $35 application fee in addition to background check costs.
“Dilley got its Temporary Shelter Program (TSP) certificate on May 22 for a capacity of 24,” Crimmins said in an email. “On Karnes City, we just received their application June 2. The inspection is scheduled for June 16.”
The move to apply for licensing puzzled activists and attorneys who wondered if this is an attempt to comply with the 1997 Flores v. Meese Settlement Agreement that says unaccompanied minors may not be held in restrictive unlicensed facilities.
“I think that they filed the applications first as a Band-Aid effort, as an attempt to be able to say that they’ve received some kind of licensing,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation to immigrants. RAICES, which means “roots” in Spanish, stands for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.