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ICE Tries To Extend Private Detention Contracts Before State Law Ban

A vehicle drives into the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego, Calif., Ju...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A vehicle drives into the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego, Calif., June 9, 2017.

Earlier this year, California legislators banned the use of private detention facilities in the state. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to extend contracts for four facilities, including one in Otay Mesa, before the law takes effect.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1 and doesn’t immediately shut down these detention centers. Instead, it says the current contract the companies have with the federal government can’t be extended.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) sponsored the bill, known as AB 32. He says ICE is circumventing federal law by rushing these contracts into extensions.

“They are handing these contracts millions of dollars, over potentially fifteen years, spending American tax dollars, without a process, without vetting, without transparency, without an openness. This is a fake bid process,” Bonta told KPBS.

ICE disagrees with Bonta’s assessment.

“ICE remains compliant with federal contract and acquisition regulations as we advertise opportunity notices and subsequently implement the decision process,” an ICE spokesperson told KPBS in an email statement.

The agency also downplayed the effect AB 32 would have on its operations.

“The idea that a state law can bind the hands of a federal law enforcement agency managing a national network of detention facilities is wrong,” the spokesperson said.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

Bonta contends that the bill would impact ICE’s operations in the state and that’s exactly why it is rushing through the process. He said the contract solicitations, which didn't name specific existing facilities, were written in a way that was tailored for the four detention facilities.

“They’re requiring that these facilities be turnkey ready, which means they need to be operating now,” Bonta said. “Again, a clear finger on the scales to provide accessibility to the existing for-profit operations. They’re also saying you can’t have new construction. They claim it’s an open process but it’s clearly not. It’s just laughable.”

Earlier this month, members of California’s congressional delegation sent a letter to ICE expressing concern that the solicitation was breaking federal procurement law.

Bonta and other legislators are still weighing their options for challenging ICE’s solicitation process.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.


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Max Rivlin-Nadler

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover the border, which includes everything from immigration to border politics to criminal justice issues. I'm interested in how the border impacts our daily lives and those of our neighbors, especially in ways that aren't immediately clear to us.

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