- Felicia Matlosz
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today signed Assembly Bill 263, authored by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno). The bill, spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, will ensure that private detention centers abide by state and local health orders to protect detainees and workers.
The bill – which garnered bipartisan support in the Assembly and the State Senate – applies to all private detention facilities, including those that house and detain immigrants in California. Advocates had contended that these facilities were failing to follow public health orders, and employees had filed lawsuits alleging breaches of safety. These facilities now must abide by Cal/OSHA workplace safety rules and regulations.
AB 263 goes into effect immediately.
Assemblymember Arambula said: “I want to thank Governor Newsom for supporting this effort to safeguard all people against the COVID-19 virus. In this case, the directive to follow state and local regulations is imperative because outbreaks can quickly overwhelm these facilities, drain medical resources, and threaten the health and safety of the communities at large. We must fight the pandemic on all fronts if we are to defeat it.”
In addition to bipartisan authorship and approval from the State Legislature, AB 263 earned support from
many of California’s local, city and county public health officers and departments; immigration rights
organizations; physician groups, and others.
Advocates for AB 263 welcomed the news that Governor Newsom has signed the legislation into law. They commented that the new law will be critical in shielding detainees, workers, and communities from the ravages of COVID-19.
Jackie Gonzalez, Policy Director for Immigrant Defense Advocates, said: "Until we see an end to private detention facilities, California must do everything in its power to ensure the health and safety of immigrants held in our state. AB 263 continues California's legacy of taking affirmative steps to protect immigrants in detention from abuse and neglect."
Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa, Deputy Director of Nextgen Policy, commented: “Ensuring that all detention facilities in California respect and comply with local public health orders and guidelines is the right policy needed to safeguard our residents as well as protect detention facility employees and our communities.”
Michele Heisler, MD, Medical Director of Physicians for Human Rights, said: “State and local public
health authorities have a vital role in protecting our health, especially during a pandemic. Private contractors working for the federal government in the state of California should not be allowed to flout California public health laws and worker protections, endangering at-risk people and the wider community. Physicians for Human Rights supports AB 263. Private immigration detention facilities in California must respect the state’s public health guidance and orders. Safeguarding the health of people in immigration detention and facility staff is not just the right thing to do, but also protects all Californians’ health.”
Bianca Sierra Wolff, Executive Director of California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, stated: “AB 263 is a major advance in the fight to hold private detention operators accountable for the human rights violations and horrific conditions they perpetrate against California’s immigrants on a daily basis. While this new law can’t undo the fear, sickness and lives lost in detention during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is a crucial step to prevent future harm.”