Biden kills law that would end private immigration detention centers in California

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals this month ordered the district court to block state law AB 32, signed in 2019, which bans prisons and private immigration centers in the state.

And although California’s attorney Rob Bonta himself plans to appeal, the blow has been struck, and pro-immigrant leaders themselves do not know if the Biden administration’s decision to continue with the lawsuit initiated by Trump against AB 32 can be reversed. .

Last year, the judge of the same federal court, Janis Sammartino, upheld AB 32, but the panel of judges, two of them appointed by Trump, reversed the decision.

The State of California now has the option of appealing the decision to a larger panel of judges of the Ninth Circuit Court or asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

“The last word is not said, because we still have a chance to appeal and have a larger panel decide,” said Lizbeth Abeln, organizer of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ).

He noted that the argument given to find against AB 32 does not work because California has the authority to regulate private companies.

And he acknowledged that they feel sad and disappointed by the decision, but also because President Biden has not kept his promises to immigrants to give them immigration reform, and for appealing for the detention centers to continue.

For years there have been protests against abuses at the Adelanto Detention Center. (Courtesy pastor Guillermo Torres)

What is worse, he made it known that in the midst of the pandemic, the Adelanto and Mesa Verde immigration detention centers expanded their facilities to have greater capacity.

The ruling of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals comes as the number of immigrants in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) has skyrocketed under the Biden administration.

Prior to this ruling, under AB 32, several ICE detention centers in California were expected to close when their contracts expired in 2020.

If the Ninth Circuit ruling cannot be reversed, these detention centers with a long history of abuse will remain open.

The Biden administration’s decision to pursue the Trump-era lawsuit against AB 32 sparked frustration from immigrant advocates, as well as a letter from some members of Congress who expressed serious concerns.

The Mesa Verde Detention Center was expanded amid the pandemic in 2020. (Kern Youth Abolitionists)

In response to the ruling, the Dignity No Detention Coalition, which spearheaded efforts to pass AB 32, stated in a statement that “the horrific abuse of Haitians by the Biden administration last month has shown that this administration has betrayed promises and violated essential values ​​by putting the lives of community members at risk.

They said they continue to demand an end to the deportations and that they be granted humanitarian parole.

Meanwhile, the AB 32 ruling is yet another grim indicator of the administration’s descent into Trump’s immigration policy. “.

They said that at this painful time, they need the Biden administration and Congress to take immediate action to repair the damage, including decreasing funding for abusive detention and reinvesting in proven community alternatives.

“The long history of medical malpractice and systemic abuse in these detention centers, and the fight against racism deeply ingrained in the system, should not be hidden under the rug.”

They pointed out that the ruling is a harsh lesson on the threat that unchecked corporate power poses to the democratic process.

The Otay Mesa Center is located in San Diego. / photos: Manuel Ocaño.

However, they noted that AB 32 is a tactic in the great quest for justice. “People who are currently in detention and their loved ones continue to organize for freedom and dignity every day.”

As a consequence, they said they must respond to the call for solidarity and redouble efforts to end all detentions, whether by a corporation or the government.

AB 32 came into effect on January 1, 2020. It was contemplated that 3 of the 4 private detention centers for inMigrants located in California would close in March 2020 because contracts with ICE expired on that date.

But days before AB 32 went into effect, in December 2019, ICE made new contracts to keep the detention centers open so they could expand their facilities. Today both the Adelanto Detention Center and the Mesa Verde Detention Center have expanded their capacity to receive immigrants. Both are managed by GEO Group.

Meanwhile, the Otay Detention Center is managed by the private group Core Civic. GEO even filed a lawsuit against AB 32.

In October 2020, District Court Judge Janis Sammartino, appointed by former President George W. Bush, ruled in favor of AB 32, but the Biden administration decided to continue with Trump’s lawsuit and appealed the decision.

The fight for the closure of private immigration detention centers in California continues. (The opinion)

California Attorney Rob Bonta who is the author of AB 32 said that when that law was passed, they sent a clear message to end private for-profit detention centers.

“Prisons and detention centers should not be a place for profit. We will continue to fight for the right to dignity and for everyone in California to be protected. “

He said that as a Filipino-American who was brought to this country as a child, this fight for him is personal. “While the road ahead may look a bit further, our work continues and we will keep pushing.”

In June, prior to the ruling, Inland Empire Congresswoman Norma Torres and Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva along with a group of 24 lawmakers, sent a letter to Attorney General Merick Garland urging him to drop the appeal against the state of California regarding to AB 32, which ends the federal government’s use of private incarceration facilities.

“Assigning a profit motive to human detention is immoral and consistently leads to disastrous conditions for those detained in those facilities,” said Congresswoman Torres.

“The State of California has every right to cut ties with this loathsome industry, but the Trump Administration has filed a lawsuit to hinder those efforts. It is time for Attorney General Garland to withdraw from this lawsuit that betrays our values ​​as a nation and undermines the will of the people in the Golden State. “

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