Lara Announces ‘Dignity Not Detention Act’ to Prevent City and Counties from Contracting with Private For-Profit Immigration Detention Facilities

April 05, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA — Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today announced the Dignity Not Detention Act to help close a gap in the mistreatment of immigrants by taking a stand against the mass incarceration and inhumane immigration detention conditions. Senate Bill 1289 will prohibit local city and county actors from being complicit in allowing private, for-profit companies from operating immigration detention facilities in California and require all other detention facilities to uphold national humane treatment standards. 

“The Dignity not Detention Act takes a stand against the mass incarceration of immigrants in detention facilities and against inhumane immigration detention conditions,” said Senator Lara. “Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering. This critical first-in-the-nation legislation would make the currently unenforceable national immigration standards the law of the land in the golden state. ”
ICE contracts with private companies to run detention facilities to hold immigrants, including undocumented people, asylum-seekers, long-time green card holders, and others who are awaiting their immigration hearings. In California there are four privately run detention facilities that hold upwards of approximately 85 percent of detainees statewide which amounts to roughly 3,700 people. The rest are held in county jail facilities that contract with ICE. 
 
There have been consistent reports of human right’s abuses in detention facilities, including physical and sexual abuse, poor access to healthcare, little access to legal counsel, and overuse of solitary confinement, and even death. LGBT detainees have reported facing discrimination, harassment, and abuse due to their sexual orientation. In many of these instances, even the Department of Homeland Security has found these deaths were preventable. Tragically, the incidents often go unaddressed and victims have no recourse. Private, for-profit immigration detention facilities present a host of problems. The facilities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and operate with little to no oversight. Many also operate under a perverse incentive, where they are guaranteed a minimum number of detainees in their facility at all times, ensuring their profits. For example in Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, CA, ICE is guaranteed 975 detainees at all times with a per diem rate of $111 per bed per day. Perversely, if the number of beds increases over 975, the per diem rate drops to $50 per day per bed. The private detention contracts are designed to incentivize filling the most beds at all times, regardless of public safety or their destructive effects on communities. Indeed, private companies make billions in profits every year from incarcerating mothers, fathers, children, and others in our broken immigration system. 
 
The legislation is co-sponsored by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).
 
“SB 1289 sends a strong message that California stands with immigrant communities and against mass incarceration,” said Grisel Ruiz, Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “During a time when California has stepped up to protect the immigrant community, we cannot sit back and be complicit in a system that profits off of immigrants and abuses them. This bill will pave the way to end the en mass profiting off our communities while also ensuring the right to enforceable and humane care for detained immigrants.”
 
"We applaud Senator Ricardo Lara for his leadership,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-founder/executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). "While masquerading as ‘civil custody,’ the U.S. detention system takes our treasured ideals of due process, access to counsel and protection of civil rights, and throws them under the bus.  As ICE is unwilling or unable to protect immigrants in its custody, it is time for California to abolish private immigration detention and ensure that all people within the state are treated humanely.  We are calling for dignity, not detention.”
 
Individuals who have been detained speak out in support of the bill: 
 
“Immigration detention in the United States has become a financial market where people’s lives are being treated as profit.  This bill is a clear step in the right direction,” said Sylvester Owino, an asylum seeker from Kenya who spent 9 years in immigration detention, primarily in California. 
 
“California’s immigration detention facilities are operating outside of the law.  Because ICE’s federal standards are not legally enforceable, the immigration detention facilities in California can treat us unjustly.  SB 1289 would be groundbreaking by making jails who detain immigrants accountable.  That is why the Dignity Not Detention Act is so important to me,” said Daniel Usman, an asylum seeker from Pakistan who was detained at Theo Lacy Facility for three and a half months.   
 
“While in detention, my religious freedoms were often violated.  As a Muslim, my religion calls me to prayer at certain times of the day.  Many times, officers forced me to choose between having breakfast or lunch and practicing my faith.  I would always choose prayer, but this meant that many days I went hungry,” said Mohammed Kamal Deen Ilias, an asylum seeker from Ghana, who was detained at Adelanto Detention Facility from April 17, 2015, to February 5, 2016.
 
“Taking your dignity and pride is one thing, but taking away your dreams, what’s after that?  In immigration detention, you feel helpless.  You feel impotent to the system.  You don’t know what’s going to happen next.  Psychologically, you start deteriorating,” said Carlos Hidalgo, a father and grandfather of U.S. citizens, who was held at Adelanto Detention Facility for over a year.
 
“In the beginning, the Department of Homeland Security sent me together with my daughter to James Musick Facility.  After two weeks, DHS separated me from my daughter. I was sent to the CCA facility in San Diego and then to the GEO facility in Adelanto. They didn’t tell me about my rights and made arbitrary decisions.  They put me into segregation, abused and tortured me and compromised my physical integrity to a point that I was in need of a wheelchair,” said Petra Albrecht, a mother originally from Germany who was held in immigration detention for over 1 year."