Monday, September 26, 2022

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down California Ban on Private Immigrant Detention

In The GEO Group, Inc. v. United States, the Ninth Circuit en banc struck down California's ban on privately-run immigrant detention centers.

The summary of the opinion reads in part as follows:

The en banc court vacated the district court’s denial of the United States’ and The Geo Group, Inc.’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief, and held that California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 32, which states that a `person shall not operate a private detention facility within the state,' would give California a virtual power of review over Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s detention decisions, in violation of the Supremacy Clause.

ICE has decided to rely almost exclusively on privately owned and operated facilities in California. Two such facilities are run by appellant The Geo Group, Inc. AB 32 would override the federal government’s decision, pursuant to discretion conferred by Congress, to use private contractors to run its immigration detention facilities. The en banc court held that whether analyzed under intergovernmental immunity or preemption, California cannot exert this level of control over the federal
government’s detention operations. The en banc court remanded for further proceedings.

California argued that appellants’ claims were not justiciable. California contends that any future injury is speculative because ICE may choose not to extend its contracts, and that any such injury is not imminent because it would not occur until at least 2024. The en banc court held that appellants’ future injuries are not conjectural or hypothetical. Virtually all of ICE’s detention capacity in California is in privately owned and operated facilities. ICE expects profound disruptions to its California operations from AB 32 because it plans to continue relying on private facilities. Because ICE’s plans are in the near future and would plainly violate AB 32, appellants’ injuries are also sufficiently imminent. The en banc court concluded that
appellants’ claims are justiciable.

The en banc court held that AB 32 would breach the core promise of the Supremacy Clause. To comply with California law, ICE would have to cease its ongoing immigration detention operations in California and adopt an entirely new approach in the state. This foundational limit on state power cannot be squared with the dramatic changes that AB 32 would require ICE to make." (bold added).


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