Federal immigration officials have illegally used third-party contractors to help them unjustly detain immigrants. When Gabby Solano was due to be released from state prison following a commutation by California’s governor, she was instead detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the aid of G4S Secure Solutions, a subsidiary of a huge security corporation.
This practice is illegal under federal law, but ICE has been doing it since at least 2016 anyway, said Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. The organizations then sued. Under a court settlement, ICE has agreed to stop using private contractors like G4S when an immigrant is released from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The agency must also pay nearly $200,000 in legal fees.
“This is a key legal victory that should put an end to G4S’ illegal practice of arresting people, cruelly ripping them away from their families and shipping them off to out-of-state ICE detention centers ravaged by COVID,” said Vasudha Talla, former immigrants’ rights program director at the ACLU of Northern California. “The state of California is well aware that G4S has a long history of abusive practices yet continues to voluntarily collaborate and turn people over to the private contractor. We believe today’s settlement is an important step toward dismantling its cooperation with ICE.”
The organizations highlight Solano’s case, a domestic violence survivor who was unjustly convicted of a murder she didn’t commit. She spent more than two decades in prison, until the governor and parole board granted her freedom. But she was instead doubly punished when she was detained and deported by ICE.
Solano is a vocal supporter of California’s VISION Act, which would stop this cruel punishment of immigrants in the state. AB 937’s advocates held a rally in its support at the state capitol building last month. Unable to attend in person, Solano phoned in her support. “I am hundreds of miles away from all of my family and friends, trying to make my way in a country I have not set foot in since I was two years old,” she said in the release. “I pray Governor Newsom will grant me a pardon so that I can reunite with my loved ones.”
The Los Angeles Times reports this recent court settlement affects ICE’s Los Angeles and San Francisco field offices. Passage of AB 937 would ensure state-wide protections for immigrants who have already paid their dues to society and are deserving of a second chance, like Salesh Prasad.
Like Solano, he was set to return back home after serving nearly three decades in prison. He had been granted release by a parole board, which recognized his rehabilitative work during his incarceration, including leading support groups. “I had worked so hard, and I was so proud to tell my mom that I was finally coming home,” he told The Guardian last month. But like Solano, he was cruelly detained by ICE on the day of his release.
“We need the legislature and the governor to take action now to stop tearing apart immigrant and refugee families,” said Jenny Zhao, a litigation staff attorney at Asians Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. “You have someone like Gabriela Solano who worked so hard to rehabilitate herself, who the state of California itself said presented no risk to society, and yet ICE ripped her away from her family and forcibly returned her to Mexico. It makes absolutely no logical sense, is inhumane and has caused unnecessary suffering.”
“The settlement, which also orders ICE to pay $197,600 in legal fees, includes no admission of wrongdoing on behalf of ICE,” The Los Angeles Times noted. But the fact is ICE was breaking the law. Yet ICE agents (and their defenders) will consistently claim that without them, the world around us will fall into chaos. Meanwhile, they behave like the rules don’t apply to them, and do it without batting an eyelash.
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