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California lawmakers may add oversight of immigrant detention centers to budget talks

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 are weighing a proposal to prohibit the expansion of facilities to detain immigrants and require new monitoring of the treatment of immigrants under detention.

A state Senate budget subcommittee first debated the idea in May, and it remains under discussion as conferees from both houses work to mesh their budget plans together this week.

The proposal followed a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of 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.

The issue took on new urgency for some lawmakers after nine deaths were reported at the privately run Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County and news reports that Yolo County officials had been housing migrant teens indefinitely. 

In a 2-1 vote along party lines last month, the subcommittee decided to add the plan to upcoming budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown. It would require the California Department of Justice to audit each facility annually and report its findings to the Legislature and governor.

Lawmakers also are considering a ban on local governments and law enforcement agencies from entering into, renewing or modifying a contract with the federal government to expand the number of beds used for people detained in civil immigration proceedings.

The proposal could be another tool in a legislative package that aims to improve conditions at immigration detention centers and increase legal defense and protections for immigrants. Lawmakers have until next Thursday to send a full budget plan to Brown.

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