Dear EarthTalk: The recent explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant that killed many people really alarmed me. Places like this must exist near many communities around the country. How do I know if my own community might be at risk of a similar disaster? – Mary Cyr, Sarasota, FL
A devastating drought consumed nearly all of Texas in 2011, killing livestock, destroying agriculture and sparking fires that burned thousands of homes. It was the worst single-year drought in the state's recorded history.
The Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Texas has outdoor spaces and other features meant to make immigrant detention less like prison. It will house mostly low-risk, nonviolent offenders.
Credit Will Weissert / AP
"It was never our authority or our responsibility to punish people or correct their behavior," said Gary Mead, who is in charge of ICE's enforcement and removal operations. "Our authority is only to facilitate removal."
Credit Laura Sullivan/NPR
Detainees will sleep eight to a room, with a private bath, and will be permitted to move around the detention center largely unescorted.
Credit Amy Walters/NPR
Detainees at the new facility will be issued clothing and personal items, and there's a walk-up pharmacy and commissary for other needs.
Just off the side of the road in rural southern Texas is a large beige building that looks a lot like a prison. Fences and tall walls mark the outside. Inside, the doors slam and people sit in control booths at the end of long concrete hallways.
But just a little farther into the facility, the door opens to a courtyard in the center of the complex, and there, things begin to change. There's a soccer field, a pavilion and a gymnasium. There's also a walk-up pharmacy and commissary. All of it is guarded by officers in polo shirts.