L.A. City bans pri­vate im­mi­grant hold­ing cen­ters

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

LOS AN­GE­LES (CNS) — The Los An­ge­les City Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to­day to tem­po­rar­ily ban pri­vate com­pa­nies from estab­lish­ing or op­er­at­ing im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­ters or sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties within the city.

City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Nury Martinez, who cham­pi­oned the pro­posal, crit­i­cized the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and de­ten­tion cen­ter op­er­a­tors, say­ing the prac­tice of separat­ing im­mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents when they cross the bor­der has “scarred them for life.”

The tem­po­rary ban also ap­plies to so-called “shel­ters” for unac­com­pa­nied im­mi­grant mi­nors, like one pro­posed by the com­pany Vi­sionQuest in Ar­leta, a pre­dom­i­nantly Latino com­mu­nity.

Dur­ing the coun­cil meet­ing, Martinez said many lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions back the tem­po­rary ban.

“The fact that you are hold­ing mi­nors in such a place, in my opinion, (they) are just sim­ply pris­ons or jails for chil­dren,” she said.

“We know they’ve caused mis­ery and pain for count­less oth­ers. What we should be do­ing in­stead of separat­ing fam­i­lies at the bor­der is re­unit­ing them, and we sim­ply do not want this type of de­ten­tion cen­ter in our neigh­bor­hoods.’’

A Vi­sionQuest rep­re­sen­ta­tive dis­puted the coun­cil pres­i­dent’s claims in a state­ment to City News Ser­vice last week, say­ing the com­pany “does not op­er­ate de­ten­tion cen­ters, nor do we have con­tracts to op­er­ate them.”

“Vi­sionQuest is look­ing to es­tab­lish a mi­grant shel­ter to pro­vide cloth­ing, food, school­ing, med­i­cal care and hous­ing for unac­com­pa­nied mi­nors,” com­pany spokesman Jeff Ben­der said. “Our goal is to re­unite them with fam­ily mem­bers or a fos­ter fam­ily within 90 days of ar­riv­ing at the shel­ter to get to a point of a sta­ble liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Once again, we are not as­so­ci­ated with de­ten­tion cen­ters. Congress ap­proved fund­ing to pro­vide these ser­vices for mi­grant shel­ters, and we are look­ing to do just that.”

Vi­sionQuest ob­tained $25 mil­lion in con­tracts from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment last year to op­er­ate im­mi­grant fa­cil­i­ties in Texas, New Mex­ico, Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia.

Martinez said a pro­posal to per­ma­nently ban im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­ters is also be­ing de­vel­oped for coun­cil con­sid­er­a­tion.

The tem­po­rary ban will last 45 days, with the coun­cil hav­ing the op­tion to ini­tially ex­tend it for 10 months and then an­other year af­ter that.

Be­cause it was marked as an ur­gent or­di­nance, it went into ef­fect im­me­di­ately.

Coun­cil­man Herb Wes­son also spoke in fa­vor of the ban. “Not in L.A., not in one of the most di­verse, if not the most di­verse, cities in this coun­try will we sit idly by and let this hap­pen,” Wes­son said last week. “It amazes me that any com­pany would want to do this, al­ready know­ing that our Plan­ning De­part­ment is work­ing on a per­ma­nent or­di­nance to make sure that this does not oc­cur.”

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