A broader panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals again blocked California’s first ban on private, for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers on Monday, saying it is being overshadowed by the federal government.
Last year, a three-judge appeals panel rejected a 2019 state law that would have phased out private immigration prisons in California by 2028. The law would have undermined a key part of the prison system. country detention for immigrants.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta had asked the highest appeals panel to reconsider a decision.
The law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom was one of many efforts to limit California’s cooperation with the federal government as then-President Donald Trump imposed tough law enforcement policies on immigration. But the Biden administration has pursued the U.S. government’s opposition to the law on constitutional grounds.
The 11-member appeals panel said the state law was preempted by the federal government under the “supremacy clause” of the US Constitution. He sent the case back to the trial court for a ruling on further legal arguments.
The Geo Group Inc., which operates two such facilities in California, sued to block the law. Neither Geo nor US Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately commented on the decision.
“AB 32 would prevent ICE contractors from continuing to operate detention facilities, forcing ICE to entirely transform its approach to detention in the state or abandon its California facilities,” wrote Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen. for the majority of eight panel members. “California cannot exercise that level of control over federal detention operations.”
Bonta drafted the law when he was in the state assembly. His office said it was still reviewing the decision but was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling. The law “was enacted to protect the health and well-being of Californians and recognized the federal government’s own documented concerns about private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities,” his office said in a statement.
Two of the eight justices agreed with Nguyen on only part of the majority decision.
And three of the 11 panel members disagreed with the majority decision, with Chief Justice Mary Murguia saying the law is valid “because it does not directly regulate or discriminate against the federal government.”
She and Nguyen are appointed by President Barack Obama.
The Dignity Not Detention Coalition, which has called for the California law, in a statement called the Biden administration’s support for the lawsuit “another grim marker of the administration’s descent into Trumpian immigration policy.” He urged the administration and Congress not just to end the contracts, but to end funding for immigration detention entirely.