Human & Immigrant Rights Groups File Amicus Brief Amid Continued Concerns Over Dangerous Conditions in Privately-run Detention Centers Due to the Pandemic

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021
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Human & Immigrant Rights Groups File Amicus Brief Amid Continued Concerns Over Dangerous Conditions in Privately-run Detention Centers Due to the Pandemic 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA— Today, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom for Immigrants filed an amicus brief in the consolidated cases United States v. California and GEO v. California that have been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuits were brought by the United States Department of Justice and GEO Corporation against California to stop the state from implementing AB 32, a new law that will phase out all private incarceration, including immigration detention centers, in California. In October, a federal judge had granted a preliminary injunction, upholding AB 32.

Currently, six out of seven immigration detention centers in California are privately run. Together, they hold well over 90% of the total immigration population of detained people in California.

In their brief, the three human and immigrant rights groups described a host of inhumane conditions in privately run immigrant detention centers in California. The brief provides examples of abuses such as dangerously inadequate and sometimes fatal medical care; sexual and physical abuse; and mistreatment of vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and LGTBQ individuals.

The brief’s filing comes as theCOVID-19 health crisis in detention continues to escalate with nearly 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in detention nationwide.  Keeping people detained, often in tight and crowded quarters, undoubtedly increases their probability of getting sick. And as the groups explained, some facilities are using dangerous chemicals as infection control agents, causing nausea, fainting, nose bleeds, and other signs of lethal chemical reactions.

This brief detailing medical neglect combined with the COVID-19 pandemic can lead us to only one conclusion: Instead of challenging the will of Californians through litigation, the federal government must dismiss its lawsuit against California and release all detained people immediately.  

“We are nearly one year into this pandemic and conditions have deteriorated greatly in detention centers,” said Grisel Ruiz, Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “The brief describes multiple examples of how people detained in detention centers are exposed to cruel and sometimes deadly conditions. While private detention centers are only part of the problem, they have played a dangerous role in driving up reliance in the unnecessary practice — only to benefit their bottom line. This is why we urge the court to stand with our state and uphold our fundamental values of putting people over profits.”

"AB 32 is a groundbreaking law, and we are confident that the courts will uphold this state ban on prison profiteering,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants. "Californians have repeatedly opposed cages in their communities.  Yet, members of our community continue to be funneled into a racist and profit-driven detention system under the Biden administration. This must end now in California.”

“Our brief explains how immigration detention in California poses serious health and safety risks to California residents and others who are held in privately-run facilities in the state,” said Clara Long, Associate Director in the US Program at Human Rights Watch. “The abuse, neglect and mistreatment we have documented in these facilities has had fatal consequences, and the Biden administration should support California’s move to enact AB32 and end private immigration detention in the state.” 

Special thanks to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP who served as counsel on the brief.

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