FIRST ON FOX: Immigration and Customs Enforcement is launching a 60-day task order to evaluate a California detention center that can house up to 2,000 illegal immigrants but has been nearly empty since a COVID-era order and was expected to close as soon as this month — amid Republican calls to fully re-open.
The facility in Adelanto, California, can house nearly 2,000 inmates but was blocked by a September 2020 court order in response to a lawsuit from immigrant activists calling for fewer inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency declaration for COVID-19 was ended by the Biden administration in May, but while other facilities and prisons have opened back up, Adelanto remains limited, and only a handful of inmates live there.
Republicans have accused the administration of not doing enough to challenge the order and of “enforcement malpractice” at a time when thousands of illegal immigrants are being released onto the streets each day. Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., has accused the administration of making “negligible” efforts to rectify the legal limbo and said that it should purse “all available avenues” to lift the ban.
Fox News Digital reported last month that the facility was expected to close as early as mid-December, a move that the National Federation of Federal Employees warned would have a “devastating” impact on the more than 300 workers staffing the facility, particularly before Christmas.
But in a statement on Tuesday, ICE said it had issued the 60-day task order with the GEO Group, which runs the facility, and stressed that no final decision has been made regarding the facility.
“While no final decision has been made regarding the disposition of the facility, ICE must consider the effect of ongoing litigation that prevents full use of the facility, likelihood of relief from that litigation, the cost associated with maintaining the facility, and the operational requirements for effective national detention operations,” spokesperson Jenny Burke said in a statement. “We are also very keenly aware of the impact to both government and contract employees at the facility.”
Burke said the order “provides both the government and the vendor the opportunity to evaluate all factors to ensure that appropriate accommodations can be made for both personnel, operations, and individuals in custody.”
“As part of routine strategic operational planning, Enforcement and Removal Operations continually assesses various factors when contemplating changes to the national facility system,” she said. “Discussions with detention providers are critical to ICE’s custody management mission and occur on a regular basis.”
ICE noted that the agency also has detention capacity in Desert View Annex facility, which is also situated in Adelanto.
The move comes amid ongoing negotiations in Washington over the Biden administration’s request for additional border funding, including increased ICE detention. The White House has reportedly been open to additional tougher measures on border-crossers, including a Title 42-type authority to expel migrants, national expedited removal and increased detention.
The administration has ended family detention and has closed multiple ICE facilities, but liberal civil rights groups have called for more closures, including dozens of groups calling for such moves along with ICE funding cuts in November last year.
Republicans and conservatives have previously said the closing of Adelanto would clash with the administration’s claims that it wants to detain more illegal immigrants, with House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green saying “its actions tell the real story.”
RJ Hauman, president of the National Immigration Center for Enforcement (NICE) said he believes that the administration was trying to avoid “the bad press of people losing jobs around Christmas” with the 60-day review, and urged Republicans to closely monitor the situation.
“This decision means nothing unless they plan to work with the Justice Department over the next 60 days to truly reopen Adelanto and then keep it at full capacity,” he said.” Republicans on Capitol Hill must watch closely and stop continuing to flirt with the idea of more money and discretionary authority for the Biden Administration as a means to address the crisis. Hint: it isn’t.”