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For-Profit Prison Company Sues to Block California’s Law Banning Private Immigration Detention Centers

Last Fall, California lawmakers passed a bill banning private prisons, including private immigration facilities. As the law takes effect on January 1st, 2020, one of the nation’s top private prison companies is taking legal action against the state. 

According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, the GEO Group—the largest private, for-profit immigration detention contractor in the United States—has filed a lawsuit against the state in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. The GEO Group wants the federal court to block the law. 

An Overview of the Legal Challenge

California Banned Private Immigration Detention After Complaints About Poor Conditions

California’s new law banning private prisons will impact 11 federally contracted immigration detention facilities located within the state. The Florida-based GEO Group operates 7 of these facilities. Altogether, these immigration detention centers include more than 11,000 beds for immigrant detainees. Under the Trump Administration, these facilities have consistently been overcrowded. Further, there have been complaints raised about unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the private immigration detention centers. In 2018, a federal watchdog noted major problems at these facilities, including at facilities operated by the GEO Group. In response to these issues, California legislators took action—banning private, for-profit prisons over a period of ten years. 

The GEO Group Contends that the State is Violating Federal Law

The GEO Group has filed a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the State of California. In its legal complaint, the billion dollar private prison company alleges that California is undermining the federal government by attempting to eliminate congressionally funded immigration detention centers. It argues that the state is overstepping its legal authority. The company is seeking a simple remedy: It wants the court to block California’s ban on private immigration detention centers. 

Lawmakers and Immigration Activists are Standing Firm

The California legislators that support the bill and immigration rights advocates are standing behind the new law. They argue that the GEO Group’s legal challenge is without merit. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the lead sponsor of the bill, noted that the lawsuit was expected. He called it a “desperate attempt” by a dying industry to save itself. Mr. Bonta made clear that the bill does not preclude U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from detaining immigrants in California. Indeed, he acknowledged that California does not have that legal authority. However, he argues that the state does have the authority to prevent ICE from outsourcing detention to for-profit corporations that are likely to cut corners and mistreat detainees. 

Call Our Los Angeles, CA Immigration Attorney Now

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, we are proud to provide personalized, reliable legal guidance to immigrants and their loved ones. To arrange a completely confidential review of your situation, please call us now at (213) 262-2000. We represent clients in Los Angeles and all around the surrounding region, including in Alhambra, Santa Monica, Cerritos, and Inglewood.