Arguments for and against collide in the hearings to decide whether to expand an immigrant center in Adelanto

The proposal to modify the use of the Desert View Community Facility to a center that would house immigrants in custody of the federal government, led to dozens of people congregating this week at the City Hall of the city of Adelanto, in the desert area of ​​the county from San Bernardino.

After two hours of hearing arguments for and against, the chairman of the Advance Planning Board, Keron Jones, said no determination would be made and that the special meeting was only to receive information that would impact his future decision.

Adelanto, a city located 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is home to two prison centers, the Desert View Center and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) processing center. Both are operated by Geo Group.

According to pro-immigrant groups, the proposal would allow Geo Group to expand the Desert View center to house more than 2,600 people.

“That is unacceptable. We want them to close, not expand their services, ”said Lizbeth Abeln, organizer of the Inland Empire Immigrant Justice Coalition.

"We want schools and decent jobs, not centers that oppress the human being."

According to Abeln, the city of Adelanto has the power to deny or approve Geo Group plans, listed as an organization that seeks to ignore state law AB 32 – which prohibits the use of prisons and private detention centers for immigrants in California from 2020

“It is a way of not complying with the law. Advancement is no longer in the contract with Geo Group but it can still decide its future in terms of expansion. Advancement must be on the side of justice and welfare for families, ”said Abeln.

Geo Group today fights against California for AB 32, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and entered into force on January 1. The company alleges that the law illegally undermines the federal government's ability to detain people in California as part of federal immigration procedures.

The lawsuit filed a few days ago requires the federal court to declare the law unconstitutional.

The expansion gives jobs

The Desert View center can accommodate 700 people. For its part, the detention center houses more than 2,000 people between men and women. Between the two centers Geo Group employs more than 600 workers, many of whom packed the room last Tuesday.

For Sandra Bonilla, guard of the detention center, Geo Group represents an economic opportunity for her, her family and the community in general. For Diana Esmeralda Holte, a pro-immigrant activist, the center represents only cruelty.

The center's workers supported the expansion so as not to lose their jobs; while other families opposed the audience.

Bonilla advocated the company, arguing that without it many local families would have to drive for hours to other cities and would not have economic stability.

While Holte said the center has been responsible for atrocities usually ignored by municipal authorities and the Geo Group administration.

For now, the Desert View center houses medium-security prisoners, has a health center and classrooms where classes, counseling and visits are taught. It also has a computer center, library and outdoor recreation areas, said David Venturella, vice president of customer relations.

"The amenities increase with the expansion," he added. However, it would continue to be a prison where "the civil rights of detainees would surely be violated," activists said.

"Humberto", who preferred to hide his last name, said he knew about the cruelties and situations in the Adelanto detention center. The 30-year-old man who arrived in the country at age 8 was detained there for two months at the end of 2019.

“They feed you rotten food, they torture you psychologically, they make fun of you, they humiliate you. It's not like the employees paint it, ”said the native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

“I was able to receive financial help from my family and I was able to go out with a shackle, but others do not receive visits, they are always isolated. These cruelties must stop, this center cannot be expanded. ”

The next Planning Board is scheduled for February 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the town hall, located at 11600 Air Expressway, in Adelanto. If the proposal is approved, it must be analyzed by the City Council.


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