Orange County’s immigrant detainees transferred to Adelanto, some released

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Orange County’s immigrant detainees transferred to Adelanto, some released

by Roxana Kopetman

As of Thursday, Aug. 1, the contract between the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and a federal immigration agency officially ends.

But immigrant detainees held in Orange County have been gone for weeks.

Many of them were transferred to a detention facility in Adelanto, where that city also recently ended its contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, but without removing its immigrant detainees. The Adelanto facility is operating under a new contract, without the city as an intermediary.

In Orange County, the last immigrant detainees held at the James A. Musick and Theo Lacy facilities were moved out July 10, making way for the temporary closure and rebuilding of the Musick facility near Irvine. When it reopens in the fall of 2022, Musick will have two new housing facilities: one with 512 beds and the other with 384 beds. The Sheriff’s Department announced the end of its contract last March, saying it wants to focus on enhancing mental health services and offering more beds for those with mental-health needs.

Meanwhile, many if not most of the immigrant detainees – people who are in detention as they await the outcome of their immigration cases – have been moved to the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County, while some have been deported, or released on bond or parole, according to attorneys and immigrant-rights advocates.

It’s unclear how many were released, deported or transferred, either to Adelanto or out-of-state. The Sheriff’s Department could not say where the detainees were taken, referring those questions to ICE, but ICE did not reply to queries.

When Sheriff Don Barnes announced ending the contract, ICE officials said the move would negatively impact local immigration operations. But the greater impact, ICE officials said, would be on the detainees themselves, who could be transferred to facilities all over the country, away from their families and attorneys.

That prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California to file a lawsuit in May against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others seeking to halt the transfer of Orange County detainees with families or attorneys nearby to far-away locations. Transferring detainees to other states would make it near impossible for them to work on their cases – a cruel and unconstitutional move, the ACLU argued.  A judge in June granted the ACLU an injunction, blocking transfers out of the area for those who have families or attorneys nearby, said Sameer Ahmed, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

“I think it was pretty clear that without the lawsuit, ICE would have transferred many individuals who had families and attorneys here to detention centers very far away, as far as Florida,” Ahmed said.

A majority of the hundreds who remained at the Orange County facilities when the lawsuit was filed appear to have been protected under the lawsuit because they had attorneys or families in Southern California.

“As far as I know, all of the detainees who were represented by local counsel and/or who had local family ties were transferred to Adelanto,” said attorney Monica Glicken, of the Public Law Center, a pro bono law firm in Santa Ana.

Elizabeth Hercules-Paez, of the L.A.-based Public Counsel, said attorneys at her pro bono law firm saw some detainees who did not have legal counsel also transferred to Adelanto. And some who had bond hearings scheduled before the closure were released on bond, she said.

The Orange County facilities housed up to 958 immigrant detainees, getting paid $118 by the federal government per bed per day of use. Immigrant-rights advocates have long fought to end the detentions there, particularly at Theo Lacy, which has been criticized over the years for unsanitary conditions, spoiled food and “a highly restrictive environment,” where even minor offenses were met with disciplinary segregation. (Sheriff’s officials have previously said that those concerns were addressed.)

Ending immigrant detention at the Orange County facilities was “a step in the right direction in terms of ending immigrant detention nationwide,” Ahmed said.

The detention center they were transferred to, in Adelanto, has its own long list of critics and complaints. Among the reports that detailed dangerous conditions at the facility was one last year from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office, which found nooses made out of bedsheets and other problems that posed “significant health and safety risks.” (The owner of that privately owned detention center said corrective actions were taken.)

Last March, Adelanto City Manager Jessie Flores ended the city’s role in contracts with ICE and the owners of the 1,940-bed detention center, Florida-based GEO Group Inc. Some community members went to the City Council, clamoring for transparency. But attempts by Adelanto Councilwoman Stevevonna Evans and Gerardo Hernandez to bring the issue of the contract back for a public hearing were unsuccessful.

“We tried to retract the letter and bring it back to the council for a vote. And ICE refused that request,” Evans said Wednesday.

The concern Evans and others have over cutting ties with ICE and the detention center is two-fold: a lack of a contract eliminates certain restrictions that potentially gives GEO leeway to expand in the future and it also eliminates the city’s right to provide oversight.

“By losing that, we don’t get to go in and check medical records and talk to detainees, like we had under our service agreement,” Evans said.  “All transparency has been lost.”

The city’s contract with ICE ended June 25. A new contract – between GEO and ICE – took effect the next day.

All credit goes to Roxana Kopetman Originally published on

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