Monday, August 29, 2011

IMMIGRATION: First Inland detention center opening (The Press-Enterprise)

IMMIGRATION: First Inland detention center opening

10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, August 28, 2011


The Inland area's first immigrant-detention center is opening today as part of a government effort to house detainees closer to their homes.

About 25 detainees are expected to move into the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center, with the number gradually rising toward the building's 650-bed capacity. After the construction of an addition, the center could house up to 1,300 people detained on immigration-law violations.

Some immigrant-rights activists worry about alleged problems at other detention facilities run by the Florida-based for-profit company, The GEO Group, that will operate the center.

Company spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment beyond a written statement, which forecast $42 million in annual revenues for GEO from the center.

The city of Adelanto built the existing facility about two decades ago to house low-level state prisoners, said Adelanto City Manager D. James Hart. The city feared losing income when signs emerged that the state was planning early release of many nonviolent prisoners, he said. Its solution was to contract with ICE, which was seeking more Southern California space. Adelanto then contracted with GEO.

GEO already runs a medium-security state prison east of the building, and it owns land to the west, Hart said. GEO last year bought the city's building for $28 million, which GEO spent $22 million to renovate and retrofit, according to the company.

The government will pay $99 per day for each prisoner.

GEO is planning to open the 650-bed addition on its adjacent land by August 2012, according to the company statement.

The city laid off about 100 people when the state prison closed last year. GEO is giving priority to those 100 people in hiring for the detention center, which will employ about 170 when the addition is completed, Hart said.

Timothy Robbins, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field director, said the Adelanto center will cut down on transfers of detainees -- especially those with medical problems -- outside Southern California. In the past, some Southern California detainees were sent to Texas , Arizona and other states. The Adelanto facility will provide medical care.

"It allows detainees to be closer to their families, support systems and attorneys," Robbins said.

Housing detainees closer to home also saves the government money in transportation and other costs, he said. The large majority of detainees will be from Southern California.

ICE last year increased the number of Southern California beds by 838 through contracts with Orange County. The other 10 California ICE facilities include Santa Ana, Lancaster, El Centro and a privately run center in San Diego.

Suzanne Foster, executive director of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, which serves immigrant workers in the Inland area, said she is worried by reports of mistreatment of detainees in other GEO facilities.

A lawsuit against the company alleges "barbaric" conditions at a Mississippi youth detention center. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a civil-rights investigation of the facility. .

Robbins said about 30 of the employees at the center will be ICE employees, and ICE will regularly inspect the facility.

Fernando Romero, coordinator of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, which includes more than 20 religious and other nonprofit groups, said a candlelight vigil outside the center and a forum in Adelanto are being planned.

"We want them to know we're here, and we're watching them," Romero said.

No comments: