[Pnews] ICE detention: California finds poor conditions in immigrant holding centers

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 27 15:16:24 EST 2019


  ICE detention: California finds poor conditions in immigrant holding

By Tatiana Sanchez

*February 26, 2019 *

Many immigrants held in federally overseen detention centers in 
California are confined in their cells for up to 22 hours a day, have 
trouble accessing medical and mental health care and face significant 
barriers in obtaining translators and lawyers, the state attorney 
general’s office said Tuesday.

“Transparency is essential as we make sure immigrants are afforded the 
treatment that any of us would expect under the law. Today we get to 
shine light on these conditions,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 
whose office was tasked under a 2017 state law with assessing conditions 
and care at 10 centers in California where the U.S. Immigration and 
Customs Enforcement agency detains people who have pending immigration 

Becerra’s investigators spent several days at three public detention 
centers, inspecting conditions and talking to staff and inmates. They 
made one-day visits to the seven other facilities, ultimately 
interviewing more than 100 immigrants to evaluate all aspects of their 
detention, from food and hygiene to discipline and access to legal 

An estimated 396,500 people were booked into ICE custody nationwide in 
fiscal 2018, up from 323,600 the year before, according to the report. 
Detention facilities in California have housed an estimated 74,000 
immigrants in the past three years.

ICE said it is committed to “providing for the welfare of all those 
entrusted to its custody” and “ensuring all detainees are treated in a 
humane and professional manner.”

“All facilities that house ICE detainees must meet rigorous performance 
standards, which specify detailed requirements for virtually every facet 
of the detention environment,” the agency said in a statement. “The 
safety, rights and health of detainees in ICE’s care are of paramount 
concern and all ICE detention facilities are subject to stringent, 
regular inspections.”

The state report said many detainees experienced:

• Prolonged periods of confinement without breaks. Some detainees were 
held in their cells for up to 22 hours a day, being let out only to do 
such things as call family members, take part in recreational activities 
or use the restroom.

• Significant language barriers and inadequate access to translators or 
interpreters, which often compromised inmates’ medical and legal 

• Inability to receive medical and mental health services. Some 
detention centers had nurses practicing outside their legal scope of 
practice, as well as inadequate medical examinations and a shortage of 
mental health staff.

• Obstacles contacting relatives and support services outside the centers.

• Barriers to accessing legal representation, often leaving detainees to 
navigate the immigration system on their own.

In some cases, ICE arranges with local jurisdictions for immigrant 
detainees to be housed in county jails. Other detention facilities are 
privately run by corporations that have contracts with ICE. Officials at 
privately run facilities were less cooperative and in some cases limited 
investigators’ access to staff and detainees, the state report said.

One of the centers that investigators assessed was the West County 
Detention Facility in Richmond, run by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s 
Office. Over several days in August, Becerra’s report said, 
investigators found evidence “at least partially supporting” Chronicle 
starting in November 2017 in which female detainees said they were 
mistreated, including being subjected to excessive lockdowns that forced 
some women to defecate and urinate in biohazard bags inside their cells.

The county ended its contract with ICE last year.

“On some level the abuses are nothing new,” said Grisel Ruiz, an 
attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. “But 
the documentation — having the state do oversight — that is certainly new.

“Now that our eyes are open to these abuses, it really is incumbent upon 
elected officials and policymakers to enact change.”

California is the first state to conduct an in-depth inspection of the 
detention centers, Becerra said. The centers have been the focal point 
of heated debate in recent years, particularly as the Trump 
administration has cracked down on illegal immigration and the number of 
detained immigrants across the United States has soared.

“We hope that other states are watching,” Becerra said at a news 
conference in San Francisco. “Because everyone in this country has 
constitutional rights, and everyone at the end of the day — child and 
adult — deserves to be treated in a humane way.”

Becerra blamed federal immigration authorities in part for not 
monitoring the detention centers, though he said several of the 
facilities have already implemented changes based on his office’s review.

For example, the Yolo County Detention Center in Woodland, run by the 
county juvenile probation department, hired more mental health staffers 
and beefed up staff training, Becerra said. It is also working with its 
medical contractor to improve health care, the attorney general said.

Another report, released Tuesday by the state auditor, blamed 
<https://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/factsheets/2018-117.pdf> local 
jurisdictions for not properly managing their contracts with 
corporations to ensure they comply with ICE detention standards.

The 2017 state law that led to the attorney general’s investigation 
requires the state Justice Department to monitor detention centers for 
10 years. Last year, the Trump administration asked a federal judge to 
block state investigators from entering the centers, saying California 
was interfering with immigration law enforcement.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez in Sacramento rejected the 
administration’s request for a temporary injunction in July, allowing 
Becerra’s staff to continue its work.


/Tatiana Sanchez is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: 
Tatiana.sanchez at sfchronicle.com 
<mailto:Tatiana.sanchez at sfchronicle.com>. Twitter: @TatianaYSanchez 

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