By Julia Asby and Aziza Nussipov
STATE CAPITOL – Immigrant Defense Advocates, an organization that advocates for and protects immigrant communities in the U.S., put out a statement supporting the need for AB 263, or the HOLD ACT, which would require immigration detention facilities across California to comply with local health and safety orders meant to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
According to Immigrant Defense Advocates, “Based on reports in the press and by those detained inside these facilities,…these private corporations routinely violate the health and safety requirements for these facilities in their daily operations, and have not followed public health orders or protocols.”
California currently has six privately owned detention facilities that are operated by for-profit private corporations. The facilities can “hold more than 5,600 individuals at any given time, with future plans to expand to as many as 7,200,” said Immigrant Defense Advocates.
Immigrant Defense Advocates adds that already, “civil detention facilities that house immigrants have requirements in their federal contracts with respect to health and safety.” This includes language requiring each facility to “comply with current and future plans implemented by federal, state or local authorities addressing specific public health issues including communicable disease reporting requirements.”
AB 263 is necessary, the group maintains, to hold these facilities accountable because they have not been following public health orders.
Mainly, the measure would “clarify that all facilities must abide by health orders and safety regulations, empower local and state public health officials to issue public health orders for private facilities”, and “create a uniform standard for private operators to comply with.”
Immigrant Defense Advocates, NextGen, Physicians for Human Rights, and California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice are just a few of the many organizations which have shown support for this state legislation.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) explained in a press release last month that the new bill will ensure health orders are followed inside these facilities in order to protect the workers and Californians being detained.
“While California has taken a strong stance against these facilities and their abusive practices with legislation like AB 32, and our ultimate goal is to phase out their operations completely, we must continue to take strong action to protect the health and safety of people still held in these facilities, and especially so in the midst of this public health crisis,” says Senator María Elena Durazo (SD-24).
“Ensuring that health orders are followed in private detention facilities will not only save lives inside these facilities but will also protect public health in the vulnerable communities and rural regions where most of these detention centers are located,” said Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Co-Author of AB 263.
“Assemblymember Bonta’s bill clarifies that all entities—including private detention facilities—must comply with California’s state and local public health orders. As we’ve learned this past year, carceral facilities are petri dishes for outbreaks which spread among incarcerated individuals, the staff and the communities around them. This bill is an important step in curbing the scourge of COVID-19 and preventing future outbreaks,” said Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), Assembly Republican Leader and Co-Author of AB 263.
“Private detention facilities in our state have been the scene of massive COVID outbreaks, inhumane practices, and medical neglect. California must send a clear message that these facilities are not above the law, and must abide by public health orders designed to protect community health and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Jackie Gonzalez, Policy Director at Immigrant Defense Advocates, Sponsor of AB 263.
Aziza Nussipov is a junior at UC Davis majoring in Political Science.She is also a DJ for a freeform radio station, KDVS 90.3FM, and a part of the ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission.
Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in political science with a minor in sociocultural anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.
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