Notorious private prison profiteer GEO Group has sued California over a recent law banning private immigration detention centers in the state, claiming in its lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, “This transparent attempt by the state to shut down the federal government’s detention efforts within California’s borders is a direct assault on the supremacy of federal law, and it cannot stand.”
Or maybe it’s just because this law affects this private prison profiteer’s bottom line. Along with CoreCivic, “the two companies account for 85 percent of the U.S. private prison market, and a majority of their revenue comes from housing immigrants,” VICE reported in 2017. Knowing the law would implement sweeping changes to help dismantle private prisons in the state, GEO Group and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in fact rushed to sign new contracts just days before the law went into effect.
Lawmakers and advocates immediately criticized the move. In a statement, Sen. Kamala Harris and Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jerry Nadler called it “an apparent attempt to undermine the spirit of the new law before its effective date,” telling the Trump administration in a letter signed by a total of 20 members of the House and Senate, “Federal procurement laws favor full and open competition in order to protect the best interests of the government, taxpayer dollars, and detained people.” Grisel Ruiz, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told LAist, “It’s just a clear attempt to circumvent the wishes of Californians and unlawfully enter into these contracts.”
GEO Group is seeking to continue operating in the state for years to come, while abuses in its prisons have been rampant. During a surprise visit to GEO Group’s Adelanto, California, facility in 2018, the Homeland Security inspector general found nooses hanging in 15 of the 20 cells, writing in a report, “The contract guard escorting us during our visit removed the first noose found in a detainee cell, but stopped after realizing many cells we visited had nooses hanging from the vents.” The new law would presumably phase out this facility.
“ICE has not taken seriously the recurring problem of detainees hanging bedsheet nooses at the Adelanto Center; this deficiency violates ICE standards,” the inspector general’s report continued. “According to the guard escorting us, the nooses are a daily issue and very widespread. When we asked two contract guards who oversaw the housing units why they did not remove the bed sheets, they echoed it was not a high priority.”
Ensuring the safety and dignity of people under its watch is not a high priority for GEO Group, but apparently suing the state of California is, because GEO Group has made clear that it’s always profits over people. “This lawsuit is yet another shameless attempt by the GEO group to protect its ill-gotten profits, safeguard illicit contracts which violate state and federal law, and to undercut the will of the people,” the Dignity not Detention Coalition said in a statement. “Our tax dollars should not pay for immigrants’ suffering.”
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