The T. Don Hutto Detention Center (Hutto) is an immigration detention center in Taylor, Texas that holds nearly five hundred female detainees - many who do not speak English and are unaware of their rights or responsibilities. The vast majority of these detained women are asylum seekers who fled persecution or torture in their home countries, and are asking the United States for refuge.
The women detained at Hutto, and their conditions of confinement, have been the subject of much media coverage and litigation by other organizations in recent years.
The Immigrant Women Education & Assistance Program (IWEAP)
American Gateways is a nonprofit organization based in Austin that provides free and low cost legal services and education to refugees, asylum seekers and immigrant victims of violence. Working to dispel myths and misconceptions about immigration and immigrants, American Gateways also provides educational and training presentations to Central Texans, Law Enforcement, and other state and local agencies through its' community outreach program.
For the past two years, American Gateways has provided legal education and representation to women detained at the Hutto center. This work has been funded by a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship underwritten by the international law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP. Akin Gump added an additional $30,000 to fund the work for six months that began in September 2011.
American Gateways provides Know Your Rights & Responsibilites presentations to the women detained at Hutto. The presentation covers the immigration process and available legal remedies to these women seeking asylum and legal residency in the United States.
The women detained in Hutto are almost entirely indigent and cannot afford private attornies. Embracing the ideal that all people have a right to access our justice system, American Gateways recruits and trains an extensive panel of pro-bono attorneys torepresent the detained women at Hutto.
Many women suffered both physical and psychological damage as a result of civil war, torture, or domestic abuse in their home countries. Unfortunately, being held in detention can compound exisitng traumas. Many Hutto detainees suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, and depression.
No other program exists to offer the detainees at Hutto know-your-rights presentations. Detainees do not understand the basics of immigration law, the methods of relief available to them, or why they have been detained. Our immigration laws are complex and the women detained in Hutto need qualified people to explain our immigration system.
A majority of the women detained at Hutto presented themselves at the American border, and asked for asylum in the United States because they feared oppression, torture, or abuse had they remained in their home country. After asking for the U.S. government's help, they are then detained and shipped to Hutto to wait—sometimes for months or years for their case to be decided.
Taking Action - How You Can Help
Make A Donation - Our most urgent need is funding. Given the geopolitical confilcts happening across the globe, we expect the number of immigrants seeking asylum to continue to increase. It is heartbreaking to turn away a new immigrant because we lack the financial and staffing resources necessary to help. Please make a generous gift today and support the Hutto project.
Be A Pro Bono - If you are an attorney interested in providing pro bono legal services for American Gateways' clients at Hutto, please click here.
Volunteer - Join the American Gateways team and change somebody's life, please click here.
Thank you for taking action to help assure that the women detainees at Hutto have access to legal services and legal education.