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How States Can Play a Role in Abolishing Immigration Prisons


On October 11, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the strictest ban on private prisons in the country. California Assembly Bill (AB) 32 would phase out all privately-run prisons, including immigration prisons, by 2028. As the first prison abolition legislation of its kind in the United States, AB 32 brought to light the mounting concern regarding the cruel nature of immigrant detention as well as increasing outrage over serious abuses at for-profit prisons.

This article is the first to explore this landmark legislation and analyze its legal and policy implications in the movement for immigrant prison abolition. After setting forth a brief history on the growth of private detention, this article discusses AB 32’s pathway through the courts. The article concludes by arguing that AB 32 can serve as an important illustration for other states where federal action has fallen short. While in 2021 President Biden signed an executive order to end Department of Justice contracts with private prisons for criminal detention, the order did not apply to immigration detention. States can adopt legislation like AB 32 to play a role in eradicating immigrant prisons across the country.

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