Judge temporarily blocks GEO’s ability to turn prisons into immigration detention centers in McFaralnd

August 11, 2020 /

A federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of a preliminary injunction that blocks GEO Inc.’s and the City of McFarland’s ability to act on permits that would allow GEO to turn two state prisons in McFarland to immigration detention centers.

The injunction was requested by Freedom for Immigrants and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

“City officials clearly violated state law, seeking profits over people, cash over compassion,” said Grisel Ruise, supervising attorney at Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “Residents must be given an opportunity to voice their opinion on whether the centers should be brought tot heir county, and they were not afforded that choice.”

The McFarland City Council voted and approved via a Zoom meeting in April the permits that would allow GEO to turn two state prisons to immigration detention centers.

However, many community members were unable to participate in the Zoom meeting. Because the meeting was held through teleconference, there was a cap of 100 people who could join the meeting. Advocates urged the city council to postpone the meeting to a time when all residents could partake.

Immigrant rights advocates say McFarland City officials violated Senate Bill 29, the Dignity not Detention Act, which requires the entities to provide at least 180 days notice before executing a permit for an immigration detention facility and to hold two open meetings where public comments are “solicited and heard.”

The case will be heard in federal district court. The date of the hearing is pending.