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California: Governor Signs Bill to Block Expansion of For-profit Detention Centers

by Dale Chappell

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law in October 2017 that blocks the expansion of for-profit immigration detention facilities, demonstrating the state’s opposition to President Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants and increase deportations.

The Dignity Not Detention Act (SB 29) restricts new contracts between local government agencies and private companies that operate immigration detention facilities in California, blocks plans to expand existing facilities, and requires a 180-day notice and public hearings for future building permits. The law also requires private immigration detention centers to adhere to national standards for conditions, and requires the California Department of Justice to perform annual audits of such facilities.

“California should not be siding with companies that profit from the detention of asylum seekers,” said state Senator Ricardo Lara, the bill’s sponsor. There are four privately-run immigration centers in California. The GEO Group, which operates the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, is one of the largest contractors with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), having held $900 million in ICE contracts since 2013. CoreCivic, formerly CCA, runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, while the Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico is operated by Management & Training Corp.

A quota policy adopted by Congress in 2009 requires ICE to maintain an average of 34,000 immigrants in detention on a daily basis whether that many need to be detained or not, which has resulted in lucrative contracts and increased profits for private prison companies. The 2016 budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) included $3.3 billion to detain immigrants plus $350 million to add more “family” detention beds. More than three-fifths of immigration detainees are held in privately-run facilities, according to DHS.

Many immigrants are refugees who entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas, while others hold green cards, according to Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), now known as Freedom for Immigrants.

“We’ve had people file complaints with us about maggots in meat, expired milk that’s being served, and really disgusting things that are taking place behind closed doors with little transparency or accountability” at privately-operated detention centers, she said.

The new bill was one of 11 recently signed into law that expanded protections for undocumented immigrants in California, including a sanctuary state policy and education and housing protections for immigrants.

An estimated 4,000 immigrants are held in detention centers in California at any given time, mostly (70 percent) in privately-operated facilities.

Sources:, www.okland­,,


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