Court rules federal detention centers exempt from California ban on for-profit prisons

Court rules federal detention centers exempt from California ban on for-profit prisons
© (FooTToo/iStock)

A California federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a law aimed at banning all privately run, for-profit prisons would not apply to federal immigration detention centers. 

A panel from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 2-1 ruling that California's immigration detention centers would be exempt from the law. 

The law, known as AB 32, bans private prisons and immigrant detention facilities and took effect in California last year. 


"California is not simply exercising its traditional police powers, but rather impeding federal immigration policy," 9th Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee wrote in the ruling's opinion.

The federal government and a Florida private prison organization called GEO Group appealed the matter, claiming that the state's actions infringed upon federal matters, according to The Los Angeles Times.

While the state argued it had a right to protect the "health and safety" of its detainees, the 9th Circuit decided that the law "discriminated against the federal government." 

"AB 32 does not regulate a field which the states have traditionally occupied," the ruling said. "To the contrary, it tries to regulate an area — detention of immigrants — that belongs exclusively in the realm of the federal government"

statement from California Attorney General Rob Bonta seemed to indicate the state would appeal the decision. 

"Prisons and detention centers shouldn’t be places of profit," Bonta said. "We will continue the fight to ensure the dignities and rights of everyone in California are protected.

"As a Filipino American who was brought to this country as an infant, this fight is personal to me," he added. "While the road ahead may feel a little longer today, our work continues and we will keep pushing forward."