Santa Ana’s Latino Community Stops City Council From Jailing More Undocumented Immigrants

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For years, housing immigrants who will eventually be repatriated has been a job split by the Department of Homeland Security and Bureau of Prisons. In an investigative piece by Fusion, the outlet detailed how thousands of people serving immigration-related sentences are detained in Criminal Alien Requirement prisons as “part of a lucrative business model which has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the private prison industry.”

These federal prisons – which were created without congressional approval – are specifically for immigrants, and they are run by private companies.

At a city council meeting in Santa Ana, California on Tuesday, community members effectively persuaded politicians to turn down a proposal from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would increase the number of undocumented immigrants locked up in a city jail. City manager David Cavazos said he didn’t want to be in the business of running a jail, but that Santa Ana’s $27 million debt made it necessary to consider the proposal, according to Fusion.

But in a city where 78 percent of the population is Latino, it’s Latino leaders who would be subjecting undocumented immigrants to even more civil rights violations. Recently, 31 women alleged in a federal civil rights complaint that they had been illegally strip searched.

During a particularly violent time in the 90s, Santa Ana built a $107 million jail that has become less necessary as crime rates have dropped. Therefore, undocumented immigrants have ended up filling the empty beds. Currently, the jail earns between $13,440 and $21,000 a day for filling up 128 to 200 beds a day. A new contract would have meant a maximum of 300 undocumented immigrants could be housed, raising the income potential by as much as $10,500 a day.

“It’s extremely shameful that the city is in a sense looking to cover its budget holes on the backs of undocumented people,” said Hairo Cortes, a program coordination for Orange County Immigrant Youth United, at the city council meeting.

More than 20 people spoke up against the expansion contract over the course of two hours. At the end of the day, the activists got all of the six city council members and the mayor to unanimously turn down the contract. The city is working toward completely breaking ties with ICE.