Experts Available: Trump Administration Today in Ninth Circuit Opposing Transparency on Conditions in Local Immigrant Detention

Marie McIntosh, ILRC

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2019
Marie McIntosh,, 978-500-2748

Experts Available: Trump Administration Today in Ninth Circuit Opposing Transparency on Conditions in Local Immigrant Detention

SAN FRANCISCO–Today, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in United States v. California, a lawsuit filed by the federal government over three state laws aimed at protecting the rights of immigrants in California, including Senate Bill 54, Assembly Bill 450, and Assembly Bill 103. AB 103, passed in 2017, requires that the California Department of Justice report on conditions of confinement, the standard of care and due process provided to individuals in detention, and the circumstances around the apprehension and transfer of immigrants to facilities. This state-mandated, state-funded oversight is the first of its kind in the nation. AB 103 additionally makes California the only state in the United States to halt the expansion of immigration detention in its public jails.

Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC), the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), and Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief in the federal lawsuit. The brief includes examples of unacceptable conditions in California detention centers that have led to suicide, death, sexual abuse, and miscarriage. Men, women, and children are imprisoned in these jails for days, months, or years, oftentimes without ever seeing an attorney or the inside of a courtroom.

Ahead of the hearing, Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center said:

“In yet another frivolous attempt to strip immigrants of their rights and prevent the state of California from legislating on its own behalf, the Trump administration is today trying to make the absurd and dangerous claim that the state’s Office of the Attorney General has no right to inspect jails under its supervision. We have a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and legal rights of people in our state and to ensure that the California Attorney General has transparent access to jails to provide much needed oversight. In this lawsuit, the Trump Administration has tried to halt this oversight and to the Administration we ask, what do you have to hide?

“Though AB 103 is under attack, the Attorney General released the first of its mandated reports in March 2019, confirming what we’ve long known: immigrants experience prolonged periods of confinement, difficulties obtaining medical care, and obstacles to accessing legal representation. While the Trump administration would like to sweep these appalling conditions under the rug, we know this gross overreach by the federal government is another attempt to undermine California’s efforts to curb abuses we now know exist in our jails.

“The federal government should not interfere with California’s efforts to increase transparency and oversight within immigration jails, and should spend resources on rethinking its role in immigrant detention instead of fighting another specious legal battle.”

Christina Fialho, a California attorney and the co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, said:

“The need for independent oversight in U.S. immigration detention is more important than ever as the Trump administration continues its brutal assault on immigrant communities and seeks to expand this inhumane system. Thanks to AB 103, California is doing what the federal government has time and time again failed to do: investigating and shining a light on the deplorable conditions immigrants are forced to endure inside these cages.”

“We have documented countless abuses at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), local county jails and private prison companies, including sexual assault, medical neglect and physical abuse. As the state Attorney General’s recent report also found, these are not isolated issues — they are systemic.”

“It is clear that the Trump administration’s agenda is to keep the public in the dark about the human and civil rights violations being perpetrated in our name. But we won’t stand for it. We need full transparency and accountability.”

“California has a responsibility to protect the rights of immigrants by exposing the culture of violence and impunity that thrives in our profit-driven immigrant jails and prisons.”

Clara Long, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch said:

“The Attorney General’s report on immigration detention in California confirms our findings that people in these facilities face dangerous conditions, including medical neglect that has led to deaths.

“California has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of people in detention. If not, state residents with deep connections to the state and people seeking asylum here, will continue to face serious harms that go unmonitored or corrected by the federal government.”

“California’s action on these issues matters. Except for Texas, more people are detained in California than any other state. ICE knows about the abuses suffered by the over 5,000 people detained in California a night but it has left issues like medical neglect, sexual assault and suicide go unaddressed. The Trump Administration’s AB 103 challenge seems like an attempt to keep sweeping detention abuses under the rug.”

For interviews around the hearing, by phone or in person:

In San Francisco, Clara Long, Human Rights Watch (English, Spanish, Portuguese),, (415) 801-7294, (510) 882 0900

In San Francisco, Marie McIntosh, Immigrant Legal Resource Center (English, Spanish),, (978) 500-2748

In Los Angeles, Liz Martinez, Freedom for Immigrants (English, Spanish),, (956) 572-4349.


Freedom for Immigrants is devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. We are the only nonprofit in the country monitoring the human rights abuses faced by immigrants detained by ICE through a national hotline and network of volunteer detention visitors, while also modeling a community-based alternative to detention that welcomes immigrants into the social fabric of the United States. Through these windows into the system, we gather data and stories to combat injustice at the individual level and push systemic change.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers 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 works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.

Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, independent organization and the largest international human rights organization based in the United States. Human Rights Watch investigates allegations of human rights violations in more than 90 countries around the world, including in the United States, by interviewing witnesses, gathering information from a variety of sources, and issuing detailed reports. Where human rights violations have been found, Human Rights Watch advocates for the enforcement of those rights with governments and international organizations and in the court of public opinion.