LOS ANGELES — The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency began soliciting bids in December for a contractor to own and operate an immigration detention facility in Los Angeles County.
The 2,200-bed minimum-security facility for male detainees will be one of the largest immigration detention centers in the country. The proposed facility will incorporate immigration courtrooms and two general population housing areas composed of 60-bed units, each with a capacity of up to 1,000 beds. The center will also feature a 200-bed segregation unit.
A 100-bed healthcare unit with medical, dental and mental health facilities will include intake and discharge spaces, examination rooms, isolation and observation cells, a triage area and telemedicine capabilities.
The majority of detainees housed at the new facility will be adult males convicted of non-violent offenses. However, approximately 10 percent of beds will be designed to accommodate detainees convicted of violent offenses.
Under the terms of the contract, the contractor will be responsible for providing the facility and operational services, including management, food service, security, personnel and equipment. ICE will offer three five-year option periods beyond the first contract based on performance.
ICE officials expect to award a five-year contract in July 2010. Phase I includes an environmental assessment of any proposed site and required permits.
The new facility is part of a federal initiative to overhaul the immigration detention system. As reported in Correctional News (see the Sept./Oct 2009 issue), the comprehensive overhaul is designed to update the system’s orientation from a correctional setting to civil setting with improved facility conditions and oversight. The plan is also designed to phase out ICE’s dependence on local jail space through the construction of purpose-built, centralized detention facilities.
Additionally, ICE is working to modernize detention centers with more space, transportation resources and staff. Enhancements include video teleconferencing equipment for immigration hearings, working groups to for identifying and locating criminal aliens, and case and detainee management systems.
The implementation of the Secure Communities program, a fingerprint identification initiative to screen suspected illegal immigrants serving sentences in local jails, has identified large numbers of alien offenders and increased the need for immigration detention capacity.
The Secure Communities program, which has been deployed at more than 30,000 local jails in 95 jurisdictions and 11 states across the country, has identified more than 111,000 criminal aliens since the establishment of the program in 2008.
Of the criminal aliens detained, about 10 percent have been classified as having Level 1 convictions, which include murder, rape and kidnapping. More than 16,500 of those identified through the Secure Communities program have been removed from the United States, including 1,900 aliens convicted of Level 1 offenses.
Officials check each suspected illegal immigrant’s finger scan against DHS biometrics-based immigration records and FBI databases, allowing ICE agents to move quickly if a detainee has a criminal background.
The program will be in use in every state by 2011 and available to every state and local law enforcement agency in the country by 2013, officials say.
Secure Communities works largely through interoperability between DHS’ US-VISIT, a system of biometric identifiers at U.S. ports of entry, and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
In related news, the U.S. Border Patrol is moving forward with plans to construct a new station to replace the agency’s existing facility in Boulevard, Calif.
The proposed station would not significantly impact the environment or have a major effect on noise or traffic in the surrounding area, according to an environmental assessment report conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The new station, which is situated two miles north of the Mexican border, will be designed to house about 250 agents. The facility will incorporate detention housing, an administration building, a helipad, a 160-foot communications tower, an indoor shooting range, kennels and a maintenance garage.
Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2010 and could be completed by September 2012.