Immigrant Activists Score Victory Over Private Prisons, ICE Detention Centers

Adios, Adelanto! Photo courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

By Samuel Paramore, Guest Columnist

It’s official: private prisons are set to be banned in California thanks to the passage of Assembly Bill 32. Prison abolition takes a significant step from theory into practice, only awaiting a signature from Governor Gavin Newsom. The fact that most of the major champions of this victory came from the undocumented community that has been vilified and subjected to private detention is nothing less then poetic justice.

Still, in the midst of all the joy and excitement, this is far from the end of the fight. As past Deport This! columns have covered, ending detention at facilities, public or private, does not alone guarantee the safety of those currently locked inside. When activists pressured the end of the contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Santa Ana, a new front emerged in the fight to release remaining detainees rather than have them transferred.

The same dilemma followed the Orange County Sheriff’s Department decision to end its jail contract with ICE. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California halted the out-of-state transfer of immigrant detainees with local legal representation in court.

There’s no reason to not expect another similar fight at the private Adelanto Detention Center and other facilities set to close thanks to the passage of AB 32.

The diminishing influence of ICE should open more possibilities for parole and prosecutorial discretion leading to the release of immigrant detainees. This is prime time for the activist community to flex its muscle. Fundraising events centered on those within private prisons will be more paramount then ever to securing their release, as this historic bill has already made international headlines.

This tactic has already yielded much success, with California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance establishing hashtags campaigns leading to the release of immigrant detainees.

It’s unknown what ICE may plan in response to AB 32, although a lawsuit appears likely. The undocumented community will win, not only because they have to but because they’re bound to. The legacy of this victory won’t simply end with the releasing of immigrant detainees, but will seep into the collective liberation of many other marginalized groups.

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