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January 3, 2020
Last week I wrote a bit about how Immigration and Customs Enforcement was helping the GEO Group avoid a new law in California that banned future contracts with private companies for the incarceration of immigrants. The new law went into effect January 1, 2020. During the last week of December 2019, ICE extended 15-year contracts to GEO Group for the management of several facilities in California.
When the solicitations for those contracts were originally posted, members of Congress expressed concern that the solicitations were in violation of federal procurement law.
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), on Thursday [November 14] led a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland (DHS) Chad F. Wolf and Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew T. Albence questioning whether ICE has complied with federal procurement rules to award contracts for new detention facilities in California in the wake of California’s new law eliminating private prisons, including immigration detention facilities. Following the passage of the new California law, ICE officials posted a solicitation for numerous federal detention facilities around the state—an apparent attempt to undermine the spirit of the new law before its effective date on January 1, 2020.
In the current environment, the fact that a letter from members of Congress was ignored by this administration is hardly surprising.
Now, the GEO Group is taking the next step in its effort to push back against current efforts to limit profiteering from immigrant incarceration. The GEO Group is suing California. At issue is Law AB32 which was passed earlier in the fall. The law bans all new contracts with private firms for immigrant detention, and allows no changes to existing contracts. All private contracting is to end by 2028. The GEO Group suit alleges that the AB32 is an attempt to undercut federal enforcement of immigration laws, and that the state of California has no authority to block the federal government or the work of its contractors. This case, if it moves forward, could prove significant nationally, as parallel efforts to limit or eliminate private contracting for incarceration are underway in a number of states - and in Illinois, have led to similar bans on future contracts.
The Dignity not Detention Coalition responded to the lawsuit with the following statement this Tuesday (Dec. 31, 2019):
Dignity not Detention coalition condemns GEO lawsuit: “A shameless attempt to protect profits”
2019.12.31 - In response to the lawsuit filed by the GEO corporation against California’s AB 32 just two days before the law goes into effect, the Dignity not Detention Coalition issued the following statement:
This lawsuit is yet another shameless attempt by the GEO group to protect its ill-gotten profits, safeguard illicit contracts which violate state and federal law, and to undercut the will of the people. Our tax dollars should not pay for immigrants’ suffering.
In court, GEO and its shocking track record of abuse and in-custody deaths will be exposed to the light of public scrutiny. This unscrupulous corporation will face the legal prowess of California’s Attorney General and the full weight of the Constitution and federal law. It is fully within California’s power and responsibility to protect all residents from abuse.
AB 32, passed with bipartisan support, is a crucial step toward making our values of compassion and respect for human rights a reality. Nationwide, for-profit detention puts billions of taxpayer dollars in the pockets of private prison companies, while our schools, infrastructure, and communities suffer.
Yet there is growing consensus that detention, like all mass incarceration, is inhumane and unnecessary — community-based case management is a powerful and effective alternative. From every corner of California and from coast to coast, we will continue to raise our voices for justice.
The coalition includes California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Immigrant Defense Advocates (IDA), Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), Resilience Orange County, Freedom for Immigrants, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), and others.