Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Construction of Immigrant Detention Centers

The coronavirus outbreak has spurred reckless calls from members of Congress to release detainees from Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) custody over concerns of spreading the virus. Now, a case in California is making it increasingly difficult even to build much needed immigration detention centers in the state.

On July 14, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley, of the Eastern District of California, issued a temporary restraining order against the central California city of McFarland and the private corrections company GEO Group Inc. The order briefly halted the process of expanding the Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility and the Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility as immigrant detention centers. 

In the same ruling, Judge Nunley permitted two mass-immigration groups to sue the city of McFarland and the GEO Group. The lawsuit filed by both groups claims the two entities violated facets of the California state law Senate Bill 29 Dignity Not Detention Act. According to the groups, the city of McFarland allegedly failed to provide a 180 days’ notice before issuing a permit for an immigration detention facility. And it did not have two meetings discussing the detention transition in a public forum. 

The groups also cited concerns of migrants being prone to contracting coronavirus during transportation to the new facilities.

In recent months, the California legislature has introduced a slew of bills to shield illegal aliens from federal authorities. Yet no legislation has been set in motion to address the lack of detention space to house detained aliens throughout the Golden state.

Private prisons undergo recurring inspections by the American Correctional Association to ensure migrant detainees are not subject to abuse or health hazards by the correctional staff or the contractor. Since they are subject to the same ethical guidelines as federal detention centers, it makes no sense to oppose the construction of new detention facilities simply because they are run by federal contractors.

Providing additional detention facilities would likely slow the coronavirus’s spread by reducing the number of alien detainees in each location. Moreover, additional facilities would also help protect the health of ICE agents and private detention center staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If these open borders proponents truly cared about the health and well-being of illegal aliens, they would promote building new facilities as quickly as possible so that detained immigration lawbreakers could be properly distanced from one another. 

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