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Press Release

Justice Department Sues State of California, California Governor, and California Attorney General for Prohibiting the Operation of Private Detention Facilities in the State

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department filed suit against California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the State of California challenging California state law A.B. 32, which prohibits any individual or entity from operating private detention facilities in the state.

Under A.B. 32, prisoners and detainees currently housed in private facilities in California will have to be relocated at great cost, potentially isolating prisoners and detainees from their families and causing overcrowding in neighboring states. The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), for example, which is responsible for the housing and transportation of federal prisoners awaiting trial and sentencing, will need to relocate nearly 50 percent of its inmates in the Southern District of California and nearly 30 percent of its total California inmates to out-of-state facilities.

A.B. 32 will also require frequent and costly transportation of prisoners and detainees. For USMS, pretrial inmates will have to be frequently transported to and from California to meet the demands of courts, defense attorneys, and any pretrial or probationary requirements. And for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is responsible for the housing and transportation of immigration detainees, any aliens apprehended in California (about 45,000 in fiscal year 2019) will have to be transported to out-of-state facilities using costly air or ground transportation. This drastic increase in USMS and ICE transportation requirements will also heighten security concerns. Finally, A.B. 32 may delay federal proceedings due to the out-of-state relocation of prisoners and detainees.

The lawsuit challenges A.B. 32 as unlawful under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because A.B. 32 substantially obstructs the federal government’s housing of federal prisoners and detainees, stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of congressional objectives related to criminal law and immigration enforcement, directly regulates federal operations, and discriminates against the United States by granting exceptions for California that do not apply to the federal government or its contractors.

A copy of the complaint is available here. The Department of Justice has also moved to enjoin the enforcement of A.B. 32 against the federal government and its contractors. A copy of the motion is available here.

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Updated February 13, 2020

Complaint [PDF, ]
Motion [PDF, ]
Press Release Number: 20-165