CIVIC’s ‘Dignity Not Detention Act’ Clears Senate

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CIVIC’s ‘Dignity Not Detention Act’ Clears Senate 

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California State Senate approved this week a measure authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and co-sponsored by CIVIC and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center to help close a gap in the mistreatment of immigrants by taking a stand against the mass incarceration and inhumane immigration detention conditions.

Senate Bill 1289, the #DignityNotDetention Act, will prohibit local city and county actors from being complicit in allowing private, for-profit companies from operating immigration detention facilities in California and require all other detention facilities to uphold national humane treatment standards.

“We are taking a stand against the mass incarceration of immigrants in detention facilities and against inhumane immigration detention conditions,” said Senator Lara. “Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering. Immigrants matter and should not be treated like caged animals while corporations profit.”

ICE contracts with private companies to run detention facilities to hold immigrants, including undocumented people, asylum-seekers, long-time green card holders, and others who are awaiting their immigration hearings. In California there are four privately run detention facilities that hold upwards of approximately 85 percent of detainees statewide which amounts to roughly 3,700 people. The rest are held in county jail facilities that contract with ICE.

There have been consistent reports of human right’s abuses in detention facilities, including physical and sexual abuse, poor access to healthcare, little access to legal counsel, and overuse of solitary confinement, and even death. LGBT detainees have reported facing discrimination, harassment, and abuse due to their sexual orientation. In many of these instances, even the Department of Homeland Security has found these deaths were preventable. Tragically, the incidents often go unaddressed and victims have no recourse. Private, for-profit immigration detention facilities present a host of problems. The facilities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and operate with little to no oversight. Many also operate under a perverse incentive, where they are guaranteed a minimum number of detainees in their facility at all times, ensuring their profits. For example in Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, CA, ICE is guaranteed 975detainees at all times with a per diem rate of $111 per bed per day. 

“We applaud Senator Ricardo Lara for his leadership and the California Senate for voting for dignity,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-founder/executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). “While masquerading as ‘civil custody,’ the U.S. detention system takes our treasured ideals of due process, access to counsel and protection of civil rights, and throws them under the bus.  As ICE is unwilling or unable to protect immigrants in its custody, it is time for California to abolish private immigration detention and ensure that all people within the state are treated humanely.  We are calling for dignity not detention, and this week, we made it one step closer to our goal.”

The Dignity Note Detention Act is co-sponsored by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). The bill now heads to the state Assembly. 

#DignityNotDetention​