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  • Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino is run by the GEO Group through contracts using cities as middlemen.

    Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino is run by the GEO Group through contracts using cities as middlemen. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 December 2019
Opinion

A law passed by Californian lawmakers in October effectively bans for-profit prisons and migrant detention facilities to operate in the state starting on Jan. 1.

The United States Trump administration renewed a combined US$6.8 billion long-term contracts for private companies to operate for-profit migration detention centers in California, less than two weeks before a new state law takes effect to prohibit them.

RELATED:
California Outlaws For-Profit Prisons Including ICE Facilities

The law, Assembly Bill 32, was passed by Californian lawmakers and signed by the state's Governor Gavin Newsom in October, effectively banning for-profit prisons and migrant detention facilities to operate in the state starting on Jan. 1.

However, by granting the last-minute contracts before the legislation was enacted the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the contracts, in a bid to circumvent the decision, were not subject to the new state law.

“For-profit prisons, including ICE-contracted facilities, run contrary to our values and have no place in California,” a spokeswoman for California’s governor said Monday, adding that “this effort to circumvent California’s authority and federal procurement rules that safeguard the American taxpayers must be addressed by congressional oversight.”

On Friday, a federal website posted long-term awards for detention facilities in San Diego, Calexico, Adelanto, and Bakersfield. The sites will house about 4,000 detainees, with the capacity to expand in the future.

Two of ICE’s largest migrant detention centers in California, the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield and the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino are run by the GEO Group through contracts using cities as middlemen. Both contracts were set to expire next year.

Mesa Verde costs taxpayers US$119.95 per detainee per day for the first 320 people detained there, while Adelanto costs US$111.92 per detainee per day for the first 1,455 people detained there, according to the organization Freedom for Immigrants. 

With the contract’s renewal, the GEO Group won two five-year extensions — one to operate the detention center in Adelanto, with capacity for 2,690 beds, and another to run the facility in Bakersfield, with capacity for 1,800 beds. The two contracts are worth more than US$3.7 billion.

While another private company, CoreCivic Inc. won an extension worth US$2.1 billion to operate an immigration detention center in San Diego, with capacity for 1,994 beds. Management & Training Corp. won a contract for US$679 million to operate a facility in Calexico with capacity for 704 beds.

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