To Whom It May Concern: GEO Pearsall Management…

May 5, 2020

To GEO Group South Texas ICE Processing Center Management,

 Frio County Commissioners Court often invites local organizations to attend our meetings to address matters of concern. As GEO Group’s South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall is the focus of a COVID-19 outbreak, we have cause for concern.

 On behalf of local elected officials and community leaders, I would like to formally extend an invitation to local GEO Group management to attend our next Commissioners Court Meeting. The purpose is to provide transparency and guidance to the Frio County community. For many of us, this could be a matter of life and death.

 I have emailed you and published a list of questions to maximize your ability to be prepared for the most productive conversation possible.

 Our meeting will be on Monday May 11 at 3pm. Please participate by web conference or dial-in. The link will be emailed to you by County Clerk Aaron Ibarra 20 minutes before the start of the meeting. The public is encouraged to view the proceedings online.

EMPLOYEE QUESTIONS

  • How many employees work at the South Texas ICE Processing Center and how many of your employees live in Frio County limits?
  • How many contractors are retained that make contact with detainees and/or employees at the South Texas ICE Processing Center? How many live in Frio County limits?
  • Are you testing all employees/contractors? Will it be done on a recurring basis?
  • How many employee tests are currently pending?
  • Are you providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees?
  • Have you made any recommendations to employees/contractors about visiting public places, such as restaurants for lunch, grocery stores, etc?
  • Will you release Zip Code information for “associated cases?”
  • Have any employees/contractors who reside outside of Frio County tested positive?

DETAINEE QUESTIONS

  • What was the average daily population for the last complete reporting year?
  • What is the revenue per bed per day inside GEO?
  • May we have breakdown of the offense level of any crimes committed by the detainees in GEO? Do you have percentages?
  • How often will the detainees be tested? Will it be done on a recurring basis?
  • Has transport of detainees in and out of the facility been halted?
  • How many detainee tests are currently pending?
  • Are you providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to detainees?
  • How many dorms are in the facility? 
  • How many detainees are currently quarantined?

PROTOCOL QUESTIONS

  • What protocols are in place and have they been adjusted in the past month?
  • Will you be keeping track of recoveries and deaths? Will you publicly report them?
  • Can you create a website with an accounting dashboard, so that the community may hear new reports more quickly and directly from the source?

Sincerely,

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4
Victoria “Coach” Camacho
Frio County Commissioner Pct. 1
Mary Moore
Mayor, City of Pearsall
Davina Treviño-Rodriguez
Council, City of Pearsall
Mary Ann Obregon
Mayor, City of Dilley
Everardo Castillo, Jr.
Council, City of Dilley
Alexandria Martinez-Inocencio
Council, City of Dilley
Joanne Rodriguez
Council, City of Dilley
Ramiro Treviño
Candidate, Frio County Commissioner Pct. 3

FREE COVID TESTING in Frio and Why You Should Go…

If you saw the ad for the drive-thru covid19 testing and are curious if you should go… do it.

At the beginning of the day Thursday April 23rd, Frio County still had only one confirmed positive in a person who already recovered weeks prior. It was starting to feel like this hurricane was going to miss us. But by the time we woke up on Friday, we had six new active cases. Yes, five of them were detainees in the GEO immigrant detention center, but one was a resident of Dilley.

We pray that this doesn’t spread further, but we should continue to prepare as if it will. Since we’re early in a potential outbreak, testing will have a greater impact by providing the data necessary for a focused response. This isn’t just about whether you have the virus. It’s about slowing the spread.

Testing is by appointment only from 9am-5pm, Thursday April 30, 2020
Location: Frio Regional Hospital
To Register:
www.txcovidtest.org or
512-883-2400

Thank you,

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4

Covid19 at GEO: Why Is It So Hard to Get Good Information?

GEO South Texas Detention Complex, Pearsall, Texas

Today, Frio County issued a statement regarding two confirmed Covid-19 cases at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall. Like any good government press release of bad news, it was designed to mitigate community alarm and legal liability.

But I believe I owe you some context.

What happened? The GEO immigrant detention center in Pearsall confirmed that two detainees tested positive for Covid-19.

Is that all you’re going to tell me? For now yes, because that’s all the confirmed information I have. Remember, the GEO immigrant detention center is not a public facility. It’s owned and operated by a private corporation, contracted by the Department of Homeland Security.

If they’re contracted by DHS, that means they receive public funds and should be subject to public information laws. That’s cute. There’s no time for the history of the private prison industry’s efforts to lobby for information laws that favor withholding, but for some light reading, check out: “Private Prison Lobbyists Are Raising Cash For Hillary Clinton.” And on the other end, a federal agency such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement will always withhold information in the name of protecting the public: “Inmate at Krome detention center tests positive for COVID-19. Here’s how ICE kept it quiet” and “ICE blocks release of coronavirus testing information at jail, N.J. official says

So then how did County officials find out? To this moment, I still haven’t received “official” information except for the county press release. Nothing from GEO, ICE, or Texas Department of State Health Services. County officials were on the same text-text-pass rumor mill as the rest of you, and it wasn’t until a county official actually reached out to GEO that we were able to confirm the claim about positive covid cases in the detention center.

What are the “appropriate infection control procedures” from the press release? Again, that information has to come from the people in charge of it. Namely, GEO and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What do these cases mean for Frio County? The GEO South Texas Detention Complex has a capacity of 1,904 detainees. The actual population varies, but two of the detainees have tested positive for a virus that is most contagious before symptoms appear. The facility also retains hundreds of employees and contractors, many of whom reside locally. No one can make a prediction on this. You’re capable of imagining the possibilities, even accounting for “appropriate infection control procedures.”

Well then what the f*&k am I supposed to do? This is only beginning to unfold right now. Until we have more data, the advice remains the same, wear a mask, stay six feet from people who don’t live with you, and stay home when possible. Ask the Feds to keep sending those checks because that’s the only way these measures will remain possible. Too many of us still have to go to work while at the same time being advised to stay home.

But if I’m an employee of GEO, live with one, and/or want to support them…
Then I would be asking:

  • What was the timeline from when (1) the detainees arrived, (2) showed symptoms, (3) were tested, and (4) received positive results?
  • Are there detainees that tested positive but have been moved and do not reflect in the Frio County numbers?
  • Can you show us the reports?
  • How often will we be tested?
  • How often will the detainees be tested?
  • How many employees and detainees have been tested?
  • How soon will further test result counts be released?
  • Can I get a big-a$& raise?

Disclosure: I am a Frio County Commissioner, who votes on how to spend revenue property taxes from the GEO facility. As more information is released, consider the personal or organizational financial interests of the source.

Thank you,

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4

CALL TO ACTION: Sew Like The Wind!

We all have to face an “El Guapo” some day. Today, our El Guapo happens to be the Coronavirus…

I’m asking the residents of Frio County to respond to the Frio Hospital staff’s plea for homemade face masks with a Santa Poco style sew-a-thon.

And if you haven’t seen Three Amigos, you haven’t lived, but let me get more to the point:

  1. Hospitals are facing a dire shortage of basic protective gear, and with our remote location, Frio County Hospital, South Texas Rural Health Services, and all of our private clinics will face a greater risk to staff, patients, and the people they interact with.
  2. Lori Keck of Dilley and Frio Hospital posted this request with a set of instructions that can best be summarized as “google it.” We really have to help figure this out for them, as they are busy treating patients:

3. Some of you have asked about sterilization. For now, that will be the hospital’s responsibility, and I have confirmation of that from hospital management.
4. How many do we need? All of them. Send two, send one hundred. If we somehow produce enough for hospital staff, we have first responders, grocery baggers, at-risk residents, neighboring counties…
5. How soon do you need them? Now.
6. Where can I send them?
Frio Regional Hospital
c/o Cassandra DuBose
200 IH 35 South
Pearsall, TX 78061

Please be sure to get the tracking number to confirm delivery. We want to make sure they don’t get “lost in the mail” as there are local ordinances being passed/considered around the country to essentially commandeer personal protective equipment.
7. Take a video and upload it to social media so we can all see how you’re helping!

Disclaimer: I categorically reject the racist stereotypes and reinforcement of hierarchies in Three Amigos. It’s also one of my favorite movies, and I can never resist a good Three Amigos reference.

Thank you,

Frio County Commissioner Jose Asuncion, Pct. 4

Covid19: A Message from Commissioner Jose Asuncion

March 18, 2020

As news floods our phones about what federal and local agencies have been doing, I’d like to share the website I use for information on the personal health aspect of Covid19: coronavirus.gov

The site is well-organized, detailed, and has a wealth of guidance for what we can do both as individuals and as members of a community doing everything we can to end this situation as soon as possible.

Some of the topics include advice for:

The website is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. Right now, this is the best and most up-to-date direct information we have, circumventing media, social media, and politicians. Coronavirus.gov is an essential resource for citizens, public servants, and elected officials. Visit the site and browse around so that we can approach our personal and executive decisions from a place of education, compassion, and respect for every person in Frio.

Thank you,


Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4
jose.asuncion@friocounty.com


Dilley Hires City Administrator, Police Chief

In the past month, the city of Dilley has selected a city administrator and a chief of police to replace the interims that held each position.

CITY ADMINISTRATOR

Political drama often defines the council and city administrator relationships in the state of Texas, and Dilley has been no exception. Since 2016, five people have filled the Dilley city administrator position, including interims.

Rewind seven years, and that city administrator faced the council for “incompetency, corruption, misconduct, or malfeasance” before she turned the tables by resigning with six city employees and taking the story to KSAT12.

The aughts were similarly tumultuous for Dilley city admins, but the new city of Dilley council hopes that legacy ends with their latest hire: Juan Estrada. Estrada fulfills two of the council’s wish list characteristics: an experienced grant-writer and someone who lives locally.

POLICE CHIEF

Dilley has a similar record of police chief turnover. Since 2008, at least six chiefs have served the city of Dilley, including interims. Well… 5 people, and 6 chief tenures. Lemme explain…

On June 25th, 2019 the city of Dilley hired Armando Romo, marking Romo’s second stint as Dilley police chief. Romo had previously served as chief until 2008 and while I’d really like tell that story- I’m gonna have to ask for consent from the parties involved, hoping that some day, we can all look back and laugh.

For now, Romo must feel a sense of vindication in his return to Dilley, departing the Sheriff’s Office to revamp the city police force’s approach, starting with a revival of communication with the public via Facebook: Dilley Police Department Facebook.


written by Jose Asuncion. 
Jose is currently the Precinct 4 Frio County Commissioner.

Dilley Brings Music Back to Town…

When Dilley’s city council announced their intent to spend big on this year’s 4th of July event, no one knew quite what to expect. After all, Dilley hadn’t thrown a big festival in well over a decade, despite the town’s musical legacy.

The festival started to take shape after the hire of Bryan Ramirez and Ayla Garcia to organize the event. When the lineup was finally announced, it was clear this would be no ordinary Dilley festival. Los Tigrillos, Eliseo Robles, La Calma, Ricky Naranjo, and Los Palominos were just some of the acts that were advertised.

Turnout far exceeded expectations. Crowd size estimates peg the two day attendance at 10,000, with a much higher attendance on Saturday night. Masizzo showed up for an unannounced performance. A fireworks display lit up the sky. Mayor Mary Ann Obregon and council members Everardo Castillo Jr., Joe Garcia, Maria Alica Machado, Alexandria Martinez-Inocencio, and Joanne Rodriguez took the stage to thank the audience, some of whom reportedly traveled from as far as San Antonio and Laredo. A few local vendors reported selling out, all but ensuring the city will try to build on the festival next year.

EVENT: Dilley/Precinct 4 Town Hall – June 22

Dilley City Council, in conjunction with the Frio County Precinct 4 Commissioner, will host a town hall at Dilley’s City Hall on Saturday June 22nd.

To express appreciation for the attendance of local residents, Dilley and Precinct 4 will provide free carne guisada plates.

To accommodate parents who want to attend, the city council and library director have agreed to open the library for a kids’ movie screening during the town hall.

The purpose of this town hall is to open a dialogue between local elected officials and residents, and will not be limited to a specific topic. Questions and comments will be driven by attendees. Unlike the “citizens to be heard” section of city council meetings, the elected officials will be able to engage in conversation as they field concerns from the audience.

Date: Saturday, June 22, 2019
Eating Starts: 11:30am
Meeting Starts: 12:00pm
Location: Dilley City Hall/Library