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California Legislature

California could soon bar the expansion of immigrant detention centers

California's largest immigrant detention center is a privately run facility in Adelanto. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)
California's largest immigrant detention center is a privately run facility in Adelanto. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers have approved legislation introduced by Democrats to counter the potential expansion of immigrant detention facilities under the Trump administration.

The bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would prohibit any city, county or law enforcement agency from entering into a contract with the federal government or a private company to detain immigrants — unless it already has done so by January 2018. It also would bar cities and counties that contract with private companies from expanding their facilities or number of beds.

The state Senate on Wednesday passed SB 29 with a 27-13 vote. It is now headed to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Lara introduced the bill as part of a legislative package to protect immigrants from President Trump’s call for expanded deportations. It dovetails with another measure — folded into the state budget in June — that would require the California Department of Justice to perform annual audits of detention centers.

The budget measure also temporarily prohibits cities and counties from adding beds to public jails and facilities that detain immigrants.

But a broader statewide push has been building in recent years to overhaul locally run detention centers and ensure that they provide people with proper access to food, medical care and lawyers.

Efforts followed a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, which found that hundreds of immigrant detainees housed in Orange County’s largest detention facility were served spoiled food, given mold-covered shower facilities and offered phones that didn't work.

California has three cities that contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and private companies to hold immigrants: Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, which has 2,000 beds; Mesa Verde Detention Facility in McFarland, with 400 beds; and the Imperial Regional Detention Center in Holtville, with 704 beds.

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