Ban on Immigration Detention Centers Sneaks Into California State Budget and Gets Approved

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California became the first state in the nation on Tuesday to place a 10-year ban on any new immigration detention centers, making it virtually impossible for the Donald Trump administration to expand immigration detention in the state with the largest population of undocumented immigrants.


The ban affects both for-profit and public detention centers.

“We send a very clear message in this budget that California is going in the opposite direction of the Trump administration,” State Senator Ricardo Lara (D–Bell Gardens) said at a press conference earlier this month.

The ban on new detention centers became law by slipping into the state budget as a last-minute amendment that didn’t get much attention. State Senator Nancy Skinner (D–Berkeley), who sits on the state’s Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, added the amendment on Friday, June 9, and it was approved by the legislature on June 15. 

The law, effective immediately, also prohibits local jurisdictions from modifying or entering new contracts with the federal government to detain immigrants in local city jails. According to Lara’s office, there are currently four local jurisdictions who have contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants in local jails: Contra Costa County, Orange County, Sacramento County, and Yuba County. These facilities will be allowed to remain open but the law now prohibits these counties from expanding or extending contracts.

Acting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan this month said every immigrant in the country without papers could be subject to deportation. He said undocumented immigrants “should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”

The increased enforcement could make California the epicenter of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown—the state has the largest unauthorized immigrant population in the nation, with an estimated 2.3 million undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center.

At the press conference earlier this month, Lara said the ban on new detention centers isn’t about being for or against immigration, “this is about ensuring people have proper living conditions.” Lara advocated for these provisions to be included in the final budget and is the author of his own legislation, the Dignity Not Detention bill, which laid the groundwork for the ban by setting out to prohibit local governments from entering into new contracts or extending contracts with for-profit companies to detain immigrants. The California legislature approved the bill in 2016, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.


The new law also sets aside a $1 million budget per year so the state’s attorney office can conduct oversight over juvenile and adult detention centers. The state’s attorney will publish annual findings in a report until 2027.

The law states:

The bill would require the comprehensive report to be posted on the Attorney General’s Internet Web site and otherwise made available to the public upon its release to the Legislature and the Governor.”


The first report is scheduled to be released on or before March 1, 2019, according to the budget.

“It’s really time to give the attorney general of California the power to oversee an industry that has operated with impunity for far too long,” Christina Fialho, co-executive director of CIVIC, a nonprofit group whose mission is to “end the U.S. immigration detention system,” told Fusion. Her organization is a co-sponsor of the Dignity Not Detention Act, which Lara introduced.


“The Trump administration is now barred from expanding its immigration detention regime in California,” Fialho said.

Additional reporting by Carla Javier.

Senior staff writer