After sustained local activism, Gov. Newsom signs bill banning private prisons for immigration detention in CA

For Immediate Release
October 11th, 2019

Jose Servin, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, , 714-728-2520
Juan Prieto, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance,, 510-414-0953
Marie McIntosh, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, 
Armando Carmona, Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, (951)966-6500
Carly Pérez, Detention Watch Network,, 971-219-9750

After sustained local activism, Gov. Newsom signs bill banning private prisons for immigration detention in CA

Sacramento, CA — Today, after years of sustained local activism led by immigrant rights groups, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed groundbreaking legislation that will ban the use of private immigrant jails in California starting in the New Year, eventually entirely phasing out their use in the state. On the heels of HB2040 in Illinois, California’s AB32 builds momentum towards dismantling the profit motives that are deeply intertwined with mass incarceration and immigration detention.

“This is a landmark victory, not only for the state of California and the thousands of people behind bars, but for the nation at large, as we join Illinois in laying out a roadmap to end the United States’ shameful history of criminalization and reliance on incarceration as a profit-driven industry,” said Grisel Ruiz, Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Prohibits the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from contracting with an in or out-of-state for-profit, private prison on or after January 1, 2020

  • Prohibits renewal of a contract with a for-profit, private prison facility located in or outside of the state, on or after January 1, 2020

  • Prohibits the operation of any private detention facility in the state not otherwise already in operation as of January 1, 2020

Private prisons used in the state for immigration detention include Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center (Bakersfield), Otay Mesa Detention Center (San Diego), Adelanto ICE Processing Center (Adelanto) and Imperial Regional Detention Facility (Calexico). 

“For immigrants this bill means an end to the deadly and abuse ridden for-profit detention facilities in the state,” said Lizbeth Abeln, Immigrant Detention Coordinator with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. “Adelanto alone was named the deadliest detention facility in the country two years ago and has had numerous investigations detailing the horrors inside from the Office of Inspector General as well as reports by non-governmental organizations. The appalling issues at Adelanto are not isolated —Just last week a 37-year-old man, Nebane Abienwi, died at the Otay Mesa detention center.”

Over 70 percent of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration detention system is operated by private prison companies, while in California it’s over 90 percent, most notoriously, CoreCivic and The Geo Group Inc (GEO). Both companies have well-documented track records of abuse, neglect and death within their facilities all while lining the pockets of their shareholders.

“Private prison companies are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the current immigration detention system,” said Sandy Valenciano, statewide organizer with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. “Perverse financial incentives are the bedrock of the immigration detention system that continually drive the expansion of facilities and lead to more human suffering.”

Advocates view AB 32 as one part of a larger effort to dismantle all mass incarceration in California, in conjunction with a host of recently signed bills that seek to break the cycle of incarceration and expand opportunities for people in prison to return to their communities. “We look forward to working hand in hand with our partners in the criminal justice reform movement to ensure the strongest possible implementation of AB 32, to guard against abuses, and to push decarceration across the state,” said Valenciano.

“We know that the perverse financial incentives endemic to our immigration detention system are not limited to private prison companies as local governments detain immigrants in exchange for huge sums of money to fill gaps in shrinking local budgets,” said Bárbara Suárez Galeano, Organizing Director of Detention Watch Network. “What this bill is is a big step forward in the sustained and growing call to abolish immigration detention.”

With the closure of Mesa Verde and Adelanto potentially approaching as soon as 2020, community organizers from across the state are preparing to launch an ambitious bond fund alongside mass mobilization efforts to advocate for the fair and just release of all those detained inside. 


The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policymakers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.

The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) is the local coalition of the Inland Empire region dedicated to convening organizations to collectively advocate and work to improve the lives of immigrant communities while working toward a just solution to the immigration system. Founded in 2008 by immigrants rights groups, ICIJ continues to strive to build collective power and partnerships on a local and state level.

CIYJA is a statewide immigrant youth-led alliance that focuses on placing immigrant youth in advocacy and policy delegations in order to ensure pro-immigrant policies go beyond legalization, and shed light on how the criminalization of immigrants varies based on identity. 

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit Follow @DetentionWatch.