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T. Don Hutto detention center will no longer house immigrant families

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TWC News: T. Don Hutto detention center will no longer house immigrant families
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Families will no longer be sent to an immigrant detention facility in Taylor, Texas.

Government officials announced Thursday that the T. Don Hutto Residential Center will stop housing immigrant families awaiting hearings.

Since the facility opened in 2006, opponents criticized they were keeping children in a former prison setting, and the decision to no longer house them is causing celebration.

It's been the site of hundreds of protests and vigils since 2006.

Jose Orta with League of United Latin American Citizens has been at the forefront of the fight.

"Three years in the making and I'm just so happy and elated it is coming true," Orta said.

Orta has toured the facility and talked with families inside.

Orta said a 2007 settlement agreement that ordered better standards like more schooling, more time together as families, and proper nutrition was a step in the right direction, but that contract was set to end in a few weeks.

He said the timing of Thursday's decision couldn't have been better.

"I'm very pleased the Obama Administration has come to the conclusion this is not the best place for children." Orta said.

The 512-bed facility is run for profit by the Corrections Corporation of America under a $2.8 million a month federal contract.

Williamson County recently renewed a 2-year contract with the company to continue running the center.

County Judge Dan Gattis said no longer housing families will take some pressure off the county, but he said he never felt the facility was improperly maintained.

Those families will now be sent to a facility in Pennsylvania.

"If we close this facility we're going to move them somewhere else. I'd rather them be here where I feel we have fairly good monitoring going on and we know what's happening." Judge Gattis said.

"At the end of the day when you are in there or see the pictures you realize it's nothing more than a jail." Texas Civil Rights Project member Jim Harrington said.

He also said it's been an inappropriate setting for families.

That's been the complaint from critics of the center all along, and people like Orta are happy their efforts haven't gone unnoticed.

"People getting together as a grassroots [organization] and fighting against an unjust cause. You really can make a difference." Orta said.

There's no timeline for when the current families will be removed from this facility.

Officials with CCA said they don't know the full details of the proposed immigration reforms yet, but this center may continue to house female residents as it has since 2008 when the facility was split in half, with families on one side and single women on the other.

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