SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Migrant advocates are expressing disappointment with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that California’s plan to ban for-profit prisons and migrant detention centers is counter to federal law.
California was set to stop entering into contracts with private prison facilities beginning in 2023 and would phase out their use altogether five years later.
The law would have also prohibited the California Department of Corrections from sending inmates to for-profit facilities outside the state.
The GEO Group, which operates several detention facilities in California, had filed an appeal saying the state’s plans preempted the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which establishes that federal law generally takes precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions.
The ruling last week noted that the U.S. government relies on these for-profit facilities and the state cannot interfere with their operations.
“It would prevent ICE’s contractors from continuing to run detention facilities, requiring ICE to entirely transform its approach to detention in the state or else abandon its California facilities,” said Appellate Judge Jacqueline Nguyen writing for the majority. “California cannot exert this level of control over the federal government’s detention operations.”
Proponents of doing away with for-profit prisons, like Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee, expressed disappointment in the court’s ruling.
“It’s extremely disappointing because essentially the 9th District Court is overturning what California wants,” said Rios. “Those who live in California have decided private prisons should not be in the business of locking people up for profit.”
The state of California must now decide whether to take the issue up to the Supreme Court.
“As advocates, what we’re saying is that we don’t believe there should be profit-making off the caging people and locking them up when there isn’t a need,” said Rios. “We’re talking about immigration detention where people are being tried for civil cases, civil immigration, and eventually they will be released.”
Rios told Border Report even if the courts don’t outlaw for-profit prisons, time will.
“We believe private industry, holding people and detaining them, will eventually end … This is a roadblock, we will continue to advocate, it’s not something we should be investing in any way and the federal government, as well as state government, need to stop in and put a stop to it.”
Calls for comment to GEO group have not been returned.