State scouted for new ICE de­ten­tion cen­ters

Agency wants space to house 5,600 im­mi­grant prison­ers

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­tiana Sanchez

As the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion scram­bles to process record lev­els of mi­grants ap­pre­hended at the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der, fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are look­ing to add new de­ten­tion cen­ters across Cal­i­for­nia.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment is scop­ing out lo­ca­tions for fa­cil­i­ties near Los An­ge­les, San Diego and San Fran­cisco, as well as other ar­eas in the state, to house about 5,600 detainees, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment the agency posted on a fed­eral con­tract­ing web­site.

In a “re­quest for in­for­ma­tion,” posted April 26, the agency said it’s look­ing to “iden­tify po­ten­tial de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties to hold crim­i­nal aliens and other im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tors.” The po­ten­tial sites could be ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties or land to be de­vel­oped.

The move comes amid news re­ports Fri­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to send hun­dreds of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ar­rested

“U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment is con­tin­u­ally re­view­ing its de­ten­tion re­quire­ments and ex­plor­ing all ac­qui­si­tion op­tions.” Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment state­ment

along the south­ern bor­der to Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tions across the nation. That would in­clude fa­cil­i­ties along the north­ern bor­der with Canada and coastal states.

Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials this week sent the first flight of mi­grants from Texas to San Diego for pro­cess­ing. Of­fi­cials also planned to send hun­dreds of mi­grants to Broward and Palm Beach Coun­ties in Florida in the com­ing weeks, ac­cord­ing to state of­fi­cials, who said they don’t have re­sources to feed or house the in­flux of mi­grants. It’s un­clear if that plan still stands.

ICE’s Cal­i­for­nia site search fol­lows sev­eral shake­ups at de­ten­tion cen­ters across the state that could even­tu­ally lead to mas­sive bed ex­pan­sions — and much less trans­parency from the agency, ac­cord­ing to im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates.

Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials across the coun­try are strug­gling to keep up with the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing across the bor­der each day. A record-breaking 100,000 mi­grants were ar­rested at the south­west bor­der from Texas to Cal­i­for­nia in April, com­pared with an es­ti­mated 93,000 in March and 67,000 in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to data from U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion.

Sev­eral Cal­i­for­nia cities and coun­ties ended con­tracts with ICE in the past year, which led to the clo­sure of de­ten­tion cen­ters in Rich­mond and Elk Grove (Sacra­mento County) and the loss of 434 beds. In other cases, ICE hired the pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion GEO Group to keep the de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties open af­ter lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions bowed out.

Critics have ac­cused GEO, which op­er­ates de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties across the U.S., of pres­sur­ing lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions to end their part­ner­ships with the agency so that the Florid­abased com­pany can con­tract di­rectly with ICE. In Cal­i­for­nia, that al­lows the cor­po­ra­tion to side­step a new state law that strictly reg­u­lates pri­vate for­profit pris­ons.

Un­der SB29, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017, lo­cal gov­ern­ments are barred from en­ter­ing into new con­tracts with pri­vate prison com­pa­nies such as GEO or mod­i­fy­ing ex­ist­ing ones for the pur­pose of im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion. It also pro­hibits the ex­pan­sion of pri­vate for-profit pris­ons and im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters across Cal­i­for­nia.

“It seems that there was col­lu­sion from the out­set be­tween ICE and GEO so that they can cir­cum­vent SB29,” said Hamid Yaz­dan Panah, an at­tor­ney and di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Col­lab­o­ra­tive for Im­mi­grant Jus­tice. “It seems to in­di­cate that all these things are part of a larger push by ICE to make up for the bed space that they lost in the clo­sure of the fa­cil­i­ties.”

In the govern­ment doc­u­ment, ICE em­pha­sized the in­quiry for new fa­cil­i­ties is “solely for in­for­ma­tion and plan­ning pur­poses,” and said weigh­ing new op­tions for bed space is rou­tine. The fa­cil­i­ties must pro­vide de­ten­tion, med­i­cal and trans­porta­tion ser­vices, and must be prop­erly staffed to main­tain a safe en­vi­ron­ment, the doc­u­ment says.

ICE’s def­i­ni­tion of the San Fran­cisco re­gion is un­usu­ally broad. Fa­cil­i­ties in the re­gion would have to be within 75 to 180 miles of Bak­ers­field, Fresno, Sacra­mento, San Fran­cisco, Stock­ton, Mor­gan Hill and Red­ding, the doc­u­ment says.

“U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment is con­tin­u­ally re­view­ing its de­ten­tion re­quire­ments and ex­plor­ing all ac­qui­si­tion op­tions (which in­cludes pri­vately-op­er­ated) that will af­ford ICE the op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity needed to house the full range of detainees in the agency’s cus­tody,” ICE said in a state­ment Thurs­day.

The agency did not ad­dress ques­tions about its con­tracts with GEO Group.

GEO Group did not re­ply to re­quests for com­ment.

County of­fi­cials in Con­tra Costa and Sacra­mento ended their con­tracts with ICE last June, and hun­dreds of im­mi­grants were trans­ferred to other fa­cil­i­ties.

In De­cem­ber, the city of McFar­land an­nounced it had ended its con­tract with the agency to run the Mesa Verde De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in Bak­ers­field. In that case, ICE en­tered a $19.4 mil­lion, one-year con­tract with GEO, avoid­ing a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process un­der “un­usual and com­pelling ur­gency.” The cor­po­ra­tion pre­vi­ously owned and op­er­ated Mesa Verde un­der a sub­con­tract with the city of McFar­land in Kern County, which ex­pired March 18.

Of­fi­cials in Ade­lanto (San Bernardino County) abruptly ended their con­tract with ICE in March for the largest im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity in Cal­i­for­nia, one marked by dozens of al­le­ga­tions of sub­stan­dard liv­ing con­di­tions, high sui­cide rates and poor treat­ment of in­mates. The con­tract ex­pires in June.

Noah Berger / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle 2017

Above: In­mates pre­pare to be searched at the West County De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in Con­tra Costa County in 2017. Be­low: A pro­tester waves to­ward cell win­dows at the Metropoli­tan De­ten­tion Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les in 2018.

Mario Tama / Getty Im­ages 2018

Noah Berger / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle 2017

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment de­tainee Ana Hen­riquez sits in her cell in 2017 at the West County De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in Con­tra Costa County, which ended its ICE con­tract in June.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.