Isabela Dias

Isabela Dias is the fall 2019 editorial fellow at the Texas Observer. She was previously a reporting fellow with Pacific Standard magazine, reporting on immigration and human rights. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Nation, Slate, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. She's a graduate of Columbia University.

By Isabela Dias:

family separations

‘Baby Jails’ Chronicles America’s ‘Shameful’ Treatment of Migrant Kids

In his new book Baby Jails, author Philip Schrag reflects on the past and future of a threatened ruling that limits the detention of migrant children.

Philip G. Schrag has written more than a dozen books over his years as a lawyer and director of the asylum law clinic at Georgetown University. But his latest, Baby Jails: The Fight to End the Incarceration of Refugee Children … Read More


Report: Sexual Assault is Common in Immigrant Prisons, but Survivors Aren’t Getting Help

Only three of 23 rape crisis centers serving areas where ICE detention centers are located reported providing therapy or other services to detainees.

We’ve known for a while that sexual assault is likely widespread in immigrant lockups. Adult detainees filed 1,224 sexual abuse complaints with the Department of Homeland Security between 2010 and September 2017. And in the past five years, thousands of … Read More

In Texas, ICE is pursuing three new 10-year private contracts for immigrant detention centers, which could include Hutto.

Activists Rally for the Closure of Hutto Detention Center as Private Contract Rumors Swirl

Former detainees were among those criticizing ICE's attempt to secure a 10-year private contract for the facility and two others in Texas.

Dozens of activists rallied outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility in Taylor on Saturday, denouncing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s push to secure long-term private contracts for detention centers in Texas. Among the protesters there to support the 512 women … Read More

A secured entryway is seen at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Federal officials gave a tour of the South Texas immigration detention facility that has been retooled to house adults with children who have been apprehended at the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

When ICE Emptied Out an All-Women Detention Center in Texas, Chaos Ensued

Women formerly detained in Karnes County Residential Center have been lost in the shuffle, facing moved or cancelled court dates, high bonds, and legal confusion.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced in September that it would turn a detention center just outside of San Antonio back into a family residential center “in the near future.” The Karnes County Residential Center, a private facility run by … Read More

Hilda Ramirez

The Fear—and Hope—of Living in Sanctuary

After fleeing domestic violence in Guatemala, I’ve been living inside a Texas church for the past four years. I’m exhausted, but I won’t stop fighting.

Hilda Ramirez is an asylum-seeker from Guatemala who came to the United States in 2014 after fleeing domestic violence. Ramirez and her son, Ivan, now 13, were detained for 11 months in ICE’s Karnes County Residential Center in South Texas. … Read More


If DACA Ends, It Would Be a ‘Catastrophe’ For Dreamers

As many as 700,000 people could be directly impacted by the end of the Obama-era program.

On June 15, 2012, Juan Carlos Cerda was installing a fan on the second-floor bedroom of a house in Preston Hollow, a wealthy neighborhood in north Dallas, when President Barack Obama appeared on television. Standing in the Rose Garden at … Read More

William Lopez

Author William Lopez on How Immigration Raids Inflict Long-Lasting Trauma

“There are 364 other days in the year when people’s lives are shaped by the possibility of deportation or a raid.”

On a cold Thursday morning in November 2013, Santiago (a pseudonym) was leaving his apartment on the top floor of an auto repair shop in Washtenaw County, Michigan, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him. Santiago would later be … Read More

In this Dec. 27, 2017, photo, Community Council health care navigator Fidel Castro Hernandez, left, hands a Spanish help line phone to legal U.S. resident Maria Ana Pina, right, as she signs up for the Affordable Care Act with her son Roberto Pina at the Community Council offices in Dallas. Since President Donald Trump took office a year ago, the number of Latino immigrants accessing public health services and enrolling in federally subsidized insurance plans has dipped substantially, according to health advocates across the country. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Federal Judges Temporarily Block Public Charge Rule, but Public Health Worries Persist

In Texas, where 5.6 million people live in mixed-status families with at least one non-U.S. citizen, the chilling effect from the proposed rule is likely to exacerbate alarming trends.

Last month, Elizabeth Hasse, an immigration attorney with the Tahirih Justice Center in Houston, spoke to a client about renewing her work permit. Hasse had helped the woman secure temporary status years before under a provision in the Violence Against … Read More