Governor Brown Signs Bill to Block Expansion of For-Profit Immigrant Detention in California

October 05, 2017

Senate Bill 29 expands public oversight of private companies profiting from immigrants

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 29, the Dignity Not Detention bill authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), to block the expansion of for-profit detention of immigrants in California.

SB 29 will prevent local California governments from entering into a contract or renewing or modifying contracts with for-profit companies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigrants. Earlier this year Governor Brown signed a budget bill containing a similar moratorium on contracts with public jails that hold immigrants.

“California should not be siding with companies that profit from the detention of asylum seekers and the misery of divided families,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Senate Bill 29 will stop the runaway train of detention and shine a light on private companies so California can ensure the human rights and dignity of those immigrants detained in our state.”

SB 29 also makes for-profit facilities that contract with a California city or local jurisdiction subject to the California Public Records Act, and requires 180 days of public notice and at least two public hearings before a local city or county issues a permit to a for-profit detention company to build or expand.

Senator Lara introduced Senate Bill 29 in December 2016 in response to deaths and critical reports about conditions at for-profit and public facilities. Three people have died at the Adelanto Detention Center this year alone.

With Governor Brown’s signing of Senate Bill 29 and the budget in June, California has now blocked the expansion of immigration detention in the state and opened for-profit companies that accept public dollars to scrutiny by the public and the press.

SB 29 limits expansion at three California cities currently contract with for profit companies to hold immigrants: Adelanto Detention Facility (City of Adelanto, 2,000 beds), Mesa Verde Detention Facility (City of McFarland, 400 beds), and the Imperial Regional Detention Center (City of Holtville, 704 beds).

All of the estimated 65,000 immigrants detained in California annually are held at publicly or privately contracted facilities.

The bill is also meant to prevent what happened in Montgomery County, Texas, where county officials approved a 1,000-bed facility with no public hearings.

Besides the for-profit contracts with cities, ICE also contracts with a for-profit prison company to operate the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. SB 29 would require additional public hearings ICE wanted to expand that facility.

Four jurisdictions contract with ICE to hold detainees in local jails: Contra Costa County, Orange County, Sacramento County, and Yuba County.