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November 28, 2007

Law School students sponsor toy drive for children at Hutto immigrant detention center

Law students survey toys collected during the Thanksgiving holidays.
Law students survey toys collected during the Thanksgiving holidays. From left to right are Marisela Vasquez, Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, Matt Bohuslav, Cristina Rodriguez, Xochil Rodriguez, Amber VanSchuyer, and Eddie Maraboto, the Immigration Clinic's administrator.

Students at The University of Texas School of Law are leading an effort to gather toys for the children of immigrant families detained at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Taylor, Texas.

Hutto is a former medium security prison about thirty miles from Austin that now serves as a detention center for immigrant families, including children whose ages range from newborn to eighteen years old. The families, many of whom are asylum seekers, are detained while they await Immigration Court proceedings in the United States.

The toy drive was initiated by students in the Immigration Clinic who were concerned about children at Hutto during the holiday season.

Students from the Immigration Clinic, the Women’s Law Caucus, and the Catholic Law Students Association plan to collect toys through Friday, December 7, 2007, and deliver them Saturday, December 8, to the Hutto facility. People who want to contribute new toys should bring them unwrapped in their original packaging and place them in marked boxes near the information desk in the Susman Godfrey Atrium at the Law School.

The Immigration Clinic has spent the last year fighting to improve the living conditions at Hutto. The clinic, along with the ACLU and the law firm of LeBouef, Lamb, Green and McCrae, filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on behalf of twenty-six immigrant children. That suit was settled in August after the government agreed to make improvements in many areas, including education, recreation, medical care, and privacy conditions. Among those was an agreement that the Hutto facility supply more toys and age and language appropriate books.

“It is important to ensure these children have adequate toys, not only to ensure proper development but to make their stay in detention a little more tolerable,” said Cristina Rodriguez, a third-year law student in the Immigration Clinic who initiated the toy drive.

“The holidays are a great time to call upon the generosity of the UT Law School community, friends, and family,” said Rodriguez, also a member of the Catholic Law Students Association and the Women’s Law Caucus. “I am sure that the toys will bring smiles to the faces of these detained children. Anything that makes their time there a little brighter is worth the effort.”

“I am pleased that law students have taken this initiative to help children in Hutto,” said Professor Barbara Hines, director of the Law School’s Immigration Clinic. “I still believe that detention of immigrant children at Hutto is not appropriate.”

Rodriguez said that more than a 100 toys, including three Play Station 2s, have been purchased and donated so far by UT faculty, staff, and students as well as friends and family members of law students. Several students travelled to their hometowns during the Thanksgiving holiday and asked for support and donations for the toy drive, she said.

For more information about the toy drive or making a contribution, contact Cristina Rodriguez at icrodriguez@mail.utexas.edu.

Press contact:
LKirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or kfortune@law.utexas.edu.

Related links:

Immigration Clinic works for detained families:
http://www.utexas.edu/law/academics/clinics/immigration/feature_2007_hutto.php

Settlement reached in federal litigation challenging conditions at immigrant detention center:
http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2007/082807_hutto.html