Officials in Adelanto, home to California’s largest immigrant detention center, have decided to end the city’s contract with the facility, making it the second Southern California community this week to pull out of the immigrant detention business.
Adelanto plans to terminate its agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and The GEO Group, Inc, a private company that owns and runs the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, City Manager Jessie Flores wrote in letters Wednesday to GEO and ICE. The contract will terminate in 90 days, Flores wrote.
GEO, reached through its public relations firm, refused to comment and referred all questions to ICE.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said late Thursday that she had not heard of Adelanto’s plans.
Immigrant rights advocates learned of the letters when they received copies from the city clerk’s office. They expressed dismay that there was no community involvement in the decision and said they’re concerned for the fate of the detainees. The facility can house up to 1,940 detainees.
“The move to end the contract does not absolve the city of Adelanto from its history of turning a blind eye to the human rights violations against immigrants in its own backyard,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder of the California-based Freedom for Immigrants, which advocates for immigrant detainees.
Lizbeth Abeln, of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said she and more than two dozen advocates were at the Adelanto City Council meeting Wednesday because they had heard rumors that the issue would be taken up during the council’s closed session. The advocates were not able to address the council. Abeln said officials have been less than transparent and advocates are concerned about what’s going to happen to the detainees.
“It’s the perfect timing for the center to shut down once and for all because of the atrocities that happened inside,” she said, referring to numerous reports that have cited inadequate medical care, numerous attempted suicides (and one suicide by hanging) and other problems at the facility.
Adelanto city officials could not be reached for comment.
This is the second community this week looking to get out of contracts with the federal government to house civilian immigrant detainees while they await deportations or their day in court. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes announced Wednesday that his department also would be ending its contract to house immigrant detainees. That announcement also was made abruptly. Barnes said the move would help the department focus on the mental health needs of its general inmate population.
Haley, of ICE, said Wednesday that the Orange County Sheriff’s decision would “negatively impact” immigration enforcement and would also lead to those detainees being sent to facilities possibly out of state because California centers would be unlikely to absorb them.
The GEO Group, Inc. bought the center, also known as the Adelanto Detention Facility, in 2010 from the city and expanded it. In the past year, Sacramento and Contra Costa County also ended their contracts with ICE.