BREAKING: City of Adelanto Pulls Out Of Agreement With ICE, GEO Group; Freedom for Immigrants Demands Just and Proper Closure


March 28, 2019

Media contact: Liz Martinez, 956-572-4349


City of Adelanto votes to pull out of contract with GEO Group, ICE

LOS ANGELES — The city of Adelanto sent ICE and the private prison company GEO Group letters yesterday confirming that the city will be ending its agreement with ICE and GEO to run the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, which is the largest ICE prison in the country.  This decision was made unilaterally by the city with no opportunity for public comment or community input. The city now has a responsibility to ensure the proper and just closure of the private immigrant prison.

“We are deeply concerned that the city of Adelanto acted unilaterally in its decision to pull out of the contract, but this now means that the city will no longer be a part of this brutal system. That said, the city can’t simply wash its hands of the culture of violence and impunity it supported all of these years just to turn a profit,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC). “Since we began visiting and monitoring Adelanto in 2012, we have documented and exposed countless abuses, from medical neglect to sexual assault, at the hands of prison guards and staff. But to this day, not one person has been held accountable. The move to end the contract does not absolve the city of Adelanto from its history of turning a blind eye to the human rights violations against immigrants in its own backyard.”

While terminating its involvement in the immigration detention system is a positive step forward, the city of Adelanto, however, has created a loophole for GEO Group and ICE to circumvent the Dignity Not Detention Act and expand the Adelanto ICE Processing Center.  GEO Group and ICE are now free to contract directly and expand the contract limit. But the City Council can and must intervene. The City Council has an obligation to prevent any future permitting of an expansion of the immigrant prison in its city.

The rural community of Adelanto, California, is home to an immigrant prison, a county jail, a state prison, and a neighboring federal prison that together hold an overwhelming approximately 10,000 people—almost one third of the city’s total population. With the unrealistic belief that prison building would revitalize the community, Adelanto struck a lousy deal with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and GEO Group in 2011 that failed to make the city live up to its slogan of “Unlimited Possibilities.” Instead, the community suffers from a dearth of jobs, persistent low median income, an unhealthy prioritization of jails over schools, political scandal, and a populace that has come to view the local prison economy as a blight and a drain.

In the Summer of 2014, Freedom for Immigrants launched the Defund Detention in Adelanto Campaign to call on the city of Adelanto to divest from the prison industrial complex. Our campaign contributed to the termination of a deal between the city of Adelanto and GEO Group to build a new prison, the rejection of a plan to house Los Angeles’ inmate population at a proposed facility to be built in Adelanto by one of the founders of another private prison company, and the creation of a new permit scheme in Adelanto to protect First Amendment rights of prison protesters.

After years of advocating the city to end its contract, Freedom for Immigrants took our fight to the state. In January 2018, the Dignity Not Detention Act (S.B. 29), drafted and co-sponsored by Freedom for Immigrants and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, went into effect in California. Among other things, the bill prevents California municipalities from entering into contracts with private prison companies for the purpose of immigration detention or modifying existing contracts to expand immigration detention.

“Now that the city of Adelanto has terminated this contract, never again will Adelanto be party to such a misguided and harmful contract,” explains Fialho. “Only one city in California remains a party to a private ICE prison contract; the city of Holtville currently contracts with ICE and the private prison company MTC. We intend to end this contract, too, and ensure all California municipalities are standing on the right side of history.”

This is what city residents and people who have suffered inside the prison are calling for:

“Adelanto residents have had enough. The local prison economy is a blight on our community. No one is winning from these private prison contracts, except the companies’ shareholders. The city should look at taking over the complex and facilitate a conversion into a multi-use facility for other businesses, an educational campus, or health care facility. The city should disengage from the private prison business and from the suffering of immigrants. Move Adelanto forward. No more prisons in Adelanto,” said Mario J. Novoa, a resident of Adelanto and Freedom for Immigrants volunteer.  And there is precedent for repurposing jails and prisons, as outlined in a 2018 study by Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC) called, Rebuilding Trust.

“Adelanto ICE Processing Center uses prison tactics in order to violate the rights of immigrants detained there. Their primary goal is to make money off our misfortune by holding us in detention indefinitely. Nobody should ever have to endure this type of abuse. It’s time to shut down this immigrant prison once and for all,” said Carlos Hidalgo, an immigrant rights activist and member of Freedom for Immigrants’ leadership council who was twice detained at the ICE prison.