Lara calls for detention facility closure

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urged an end to the existing contract with the GEO Group and immediate closure of the troubled U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center located at Adelanto, California. The for-profit detention facility has been the subject of multiple California investigations and inspired a recent state law that Commissioner Lara sponsored establishing insurance standards in an effort to protect human rights.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

“Multiple independent, media, and government investigations have detailed the on-going horrific and abusive treatment of people detained in private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities, including the Adelanto ICE Processing Center,” Lara said in the letter. “This particular Adelanto facility has had a long and well-documented history of violating detained immigrants’ human rights and turning a blind eye to their physical safety and mental well-being.”

There have been widespread reports of human rights abuses in for-profit detention facilities, including physical and sexual abuse, poor access to healthcare, little access to legal counsel, overuse of solitary confinement, and even death. LGBTQ+ detainees have reported facing discrimination, harassment, and abuse due to their sexual orientation. The Adelanto facility was scheduled to close permanently in December 2023, before ICE extended operation of the facility pending further analysis.

In 2021, Commissioner Lara partnered with the California Immigrant Policy Center and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) to co-sponsor California Senate Bill 334, known as the “Detention Facility Accountability Act,” authored by California State Senator María Elena Durazo and signed into law by Governor Newsom. This law requires minimum health, safety, and human rights standards to be maintained at private for-profit prisons and detention facilities. It imposes insurance requirements to leverage the insurance marketplace in order to help minimize the risks faced daily by our most vulnerable populations housed in these detention centers.

“Despite this law, however, conditions at the Adelanto facility remain deplorable and harmful, and my concerns about the uninsured liability at this facility have only increased,” Lara added in the letter.