ICE trying to bypass California’s for-profit prison ban, lawmakers say

Migrant Centers

This Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, photo shows the Adelanto U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Processing Center operated by GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) a Florida-based company specializing in privatized corrections in Adelanto, Calif. California is banning the use of for-profit, private detention facilities, including those the federal government uses for immigrants awaiting deportation hearings. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 he had signed a measure into law that helps fulfill his promise to end the use of private prisons.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Both of California’s U.S. senators and nearly 20 members of the House delegation are taking aim at Immigration Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security saying in a letter that they have “serious concerns” about the way ICE is working with California’s for-profit prisons. 

“DHS is trying to circumvent the law,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-California. 

In September, California banned new for-profit prison contracts with the law taking effect at the first of the new year. 

But last month, Harder said ICE began requesting new multi-year bids from for-profit prison companies. 

“Inevitably we see a lack of oversight, we see abuses in the system. That’s what we’ve seen with these prisons in California,” Harder said. 

U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-California, wants leaders at ICE and DHS to explain what they are doing. 

“ICE does not have the greatest record when it comes to transparency,” Aguilar said. “We want to get to the bottom of whether this was calculated on their part to avoid the California legislation.”

The lawmakers’ concern is that ICE would renew its existing contracts with four for-profit prison companies and extend them years into the future – all before Jan. 1 when such a thing would be illegal.

But Republican Congressman Tim Burchett says attacks on the for-profit prison industry are often misguided. 

“It’s a state regulation versus the feds,” said Burchett, R-Tennessee. “Privatization really, if you dig down deep, has more to do with the unionization of our prisons.”

Neither DHS nor ICE responded to our requests for comment and Aguilar said they haven’t responded to lawmakers either.

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