ICE banned from using contractors to arrest immigrants at California jails, prisons

A man is handcuffed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents transfer an immigrant after an early morning raid in Duarte.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

A California lawsuit has ended with a settlement that bans U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from leaning on private contractors to arrest immigrants at state prisons and jails and send them to deportation proceedings.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California arrived at a settlement with ICE in a joint lawsuit with the Asian Law Caucus alleging that immigration enforcement officers “routinely and systematically” directed third-party contractors to arrest immigrants at county jails and prisons.

The settlement prohibits ICE from using private contractors to carry out arrests in regions covered by the agency’s Los Angeles and San Francisco field offices.


Federal law allows federal immigration officers to make arrests related only to immigration. In its suit, filed in February 2021, the ACLU said that ICE has “willfully flouted” the law since at least 2016 and allowed private contractors hired through G4S Secure Solutions Inc. to make arrests without an ICE immigration officer present.

The settlement comes as coronavirus infections in detention centers have surged since December to 3,129 — nearly 15% of the total detained population — as of Wednesday.

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“The state of California is well aware that G4S has a long history of abusive practices yet continues to voluntarily collaborate and turn people over to the private contractor,” Vasudha Talla, the former program director of the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement. “We believe today’s settlement is an important step toward dismantling its cooperation with ICE.”

Representatives from ICE did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The settlement, which also orders ICE to pay $197,600 in legal fees, includes no admission of wrongdoing on behalf of ICE.

The ACLU said in its suit that immigration officials have used G4S Secure Solutions Inc. since 2012, and in 2016, shifted its policy to further depend on private contractors to detain and arrest immigrants at county jails and prisons.

The lawsuit alleged that private contractors were tapped to transfer immigrants from county jails and prisons at the same time California passed its “sanctuary state” law. The law, which was signed in 2017 under Senate Bill 54, restricts the ability of local law enforcement to notify immigration authorities of an individual’s release date.


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The lawsuit was filed by the two advocacy organizations on behalf of a Montebello resident, Gabriela Solano, who was detained by private contractors on behalf of ICE after being granted parole following 22 years in prison.

In December 2020, as Solano’s family waited outside the prison gates to welcome her home, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation transferred her to immigration authorities and a G4S contractor, the lawsuit stated. She was detained for three months at a correctional facility in Aurora, Colo., before being deported to Mexico.

“I am hundreds of miles away from all of my family and friends, trying to make my way in a country I have not set foot in since I was 2 years old,” Solano said in a statement provided by the ACLU. “I pray Gov. Newsom will grant me a pardon so that I can reunite with my loved ones.”

Proposed state legislation would create new protections to ensure that people who have served sentences or have charges dropped are not processed for deportation. California lawmakers are currently considering the new policy under Assembly Bill 937.