Immigrants in California who have been targeted for deportation are sometimes held in immigration detention centers. Because Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not have enough federal government-owned detention centers to hold all of its detainees, the vast majority of deportees are held in privately owned detention centers. There are currently 182 detention centers used by ICE, and 90 percent of these facilities are privately owned.
However, the private detention centers that are used by ICE may be shut down soon, according to an announcement by the Department of Justice. The DOJ said that the Bureau of Prisons would start to use fewer private prisons before ultimately ending its use of all private prisons. On Nov. 30, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is expected to take recommendations from the Homeland Security Advisory Council about whether or not to permanently close private prisons.
Many people have criticized the move to shut down private immigration detention centers because it could lead to overcrowding in the detention centers that will remain. New detention centers may need to be built for the approximately 34,000 immigration detainees that are housed in contracted facilities every day. However, some say that the private detention centers will simply be taken over by the federal government and turned into federal detention facilities.
It can be very difficult for an immigrant to prepare a deportation defense while they are sitting in a detention center waiting for their scheduled hearing. A lawyer who is helping an immigrant fight a deportation order may first work to get their client out of detention. Even if it is not possible to get an individual out of an immigration detention facility, a lawyer may be able to build a strong deportation defense by gathering evidence of the individual’s lawful entry into the country and their eligibility for deportation relief.