Welcome to the fourth in a six-piece series on the history of and facts behind American immigration. Each week, Liberty Nation author Kelli Ballard examines a contentious issue related to today’s hottest topic. In part three, we discussed the differences between what is a right and what is a privilege. This week, we’ll talk about ICE’s plan to circumvent California’s pending no-new-contracts-for-prisons law.
The deadline is fast approaching for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newest bill to go into effect. In January 2020, AB 32 will prevent new contracts for private or for-profit prisons. Currently, about 5% of the state’s inmates are incarcerated in these types of prisons, but the real impact – and the reason for the bill – is on ICE and its detention centers. The bill also prohibits operating a private immigration detention facility in a for-profit prison after January 2028.
“During my inaugural address,” Newsom said, “I vowed to end private prisons, because they contribute to over-incarceration, including those that incarcerate California inmates and those that detain immigrants and asylum seekers. These for-profit prisons do not reflect our values.”
Currently, ICE has four detention centers in the state:
- Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto; holds approximately 1,700.
- Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico; holds approximately 675.
- Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield; holds approximately 370.
- Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego; holds approximately 960.
In a statement, ICE said it wasn’t even sure that AB 32 is legal:
“ICE legal staff are currently reviewing the signing into law of California AB32 by the state’s governor. However, the idea that a state law can bind the hands of a federal law enforcement agency managing a national network of detention facilities is simply false.
“If this law takes effect, ICE would simply have to transfer individuals a greater distance from their arrest location to other facilities outside the state. Thus, the impact would be felt by residents of California, who would be forced to travel greater distances to visit friends and family in custody, and not by ICE.”
As a sanctuary state, California has been criticized for prohibiting local and state law enforcement from working with federal agents on immigration control. This bill is just one more attempt to tie agents’ hands behind their backs. The statement further said:
“Policy makers who strive to make it more difficult to remove dangerous criminal aliens, and who aim to stop the cooperation of local officials and business partners, harm the very communities whose welfare they have sworn to protect.”
With the deadline about 60 days out, ICE is proactively working on securing contracts with facilities before the January cutoff date. The immigration agency is looking to secure three or four contract detention facilities in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. If the contracts are awarded, the facilities would be able to house at least 5,200 people. The bids for the contracts are due by Oct. 31, and services should be started by Dec. 20.
However, even if the contracts fall through, ICE said that this would not drastically affect the number of individuals it will be able to detain or keep in custody. “The impact would NOT be felt by ICE, but by California residents,” the statement read, emphasizing the burden for family members whose loved ones would end up in detention facilities farther away. ICE currently has roughly 52,000 individuals in custody, and California has about 4,000 beds. Even though the state is highly populated, it provides less than 10% of the agency’s detention capacity.