December 6, 2021

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Appeals court’s conservative judges block California law banning private immigration facilities


“Today’s ruling is a stark lesson about the threat unchecked corporate power poses to the democratic process,” the Dignity Not Detention Coalition said. “Yet AB 32 is one tactic in a large quest for justice. People who are currently in detention and their loved ones continue to organize for freedom and dignity every day. We must answer the call of solidarity and redouble our efforts to end all detention, whether run by a corporation or the government.”

The coalition’s statement said that “California now has the option of either appealing the decision to a larger ‘en banc’ panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit or asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.” The AP reports there was no immediate comment on an appeal from state attorney general Rob Bonta, who said that “[w]hile the road ahead may feel a little longer today, our work continues and we will keep pushing forward.” Bonta sponsored the bill while in the state assembly. He was appointed to replace Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra earlier this year.

An appeal could mean a face-off against the Biden administration, which had been slammed by advocates and dozens of lawmakers for taking the baton from the previous administration in its despicable battle to overturn the law. “The State of California has every right to cut ties with this abhorrent industry,” Rep. Norma Torres told the Biden administration in June. “It’s time for Attorney General Garland to withdraw from this suit that betrays our values as a nation and undermines the will of the people in the Golden State.”

The Biden administration’s move came despite an executive order directing the Justice Department to not renew private prison contracts, and a campaign pledge “that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants.”

The Dignity Not Detention Coalition said the ruling, along with the Biden administration’s continued use of the anti-asylum Title 42 policy and massive increase in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) population, is “another grim marker of the administration’s descent into Trumpian immigration policy.” The coalition said that a number of private facilities had been set to close in the next several years under the law. “If left intact, today’s ruling would allow these detention centers, which have a long track record of serious abuse, to remain open.”


One notorious facility in the state failed an unannounced inspection just months ago, noting the facility continued to fail to protect detained immigrants from COVID-19, among numerous other violations. The first immigrant to die after contracting the virus while in detention had been held at Otay Mesa Detention Facility. “The sole dissenting Judge noted that it is well within the state’s powers to safeguard the health and safety of [Californians], including people suffering in detention,” the Dignity Not Detention Coalition tweeted. Yet in a downright sneaky move, ICE had rushed to extend new private prison contracts just days before AB32 was set to go into effect.

“In this painful moment, we demand that the Biden administration and Congress take immediate action to repair the harm wrought today, including decreasing funding for abusive detention and reinvesting in proven, community-based alternatives,” the coalition continued. “The long record of medical neglect and systemic abuses plaguing detention—and the anti-Blackness and racism deeply embedded in the system—must not be swept under the rug.”


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