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California Takes a Stand Against Immigrant Detention

New Budget Would Blunt the Impact of Trump Crackdown

ICE detainees walk into the dining area for lunch at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California. © 2017 Reuters

California is set to approve a budget today that would take a strong stand against President Donald Trump’s expansion of the abuse-ridden deportation and detention machine.

The US$125 billion budget includes a measure preventing local governments from signing contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for new detention facilities or for expansion of existing contracts. The California Attorney General will also receive $1 million to monitor and publicly report on all California juvenile and adult immigration detention centers for 10 years. Combined with an unprecedented $45 million total for immigration services including deportation defense attorneys, these are no mere symbolic gestures by a liberal state.

California, after Texas, holds more immigrants in detention than any other state in the United States. On any given day, there are about 5,000 people held in more than 50 detention centers around California, from large facilities run by for-profit companies to small jails run by local counties. Based on analysis of data from ICE, Human Rights Watch estimates nearly half – 42 percent – of people detained in California have US citizen children. The Trump administration’s plans to expand detention have already affected California – Orange County recently voted to expand its contract with ICE to detain more immigrants.

The conditions in these facilities are often abusive and sometimes deadly. Human Rights Watch and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) found that in at least two cases, immigrants held in California facilities died due, at least in part, to inadequate medical care. We also identified several other examples of poor care in facilities throughout the state. Immigrants locked up in isolated detention centers struggle to assert their rights, especially when 68 percent lack legal representation. This week, immigrants held in the privately run Adelanto Detention Center went on a hunger strike to protest such conditions.

California alone cannot roll back Trump’s abusive immigration policies, but by taking a stand against undue expansion of a brutal system, it sets an example of leadership other states should follow as well.

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