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City and County Contracts With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Local Governments Must Improve Oversight to Address Health and Safety Concerns and Cost Overruns

Report Number: 2018-117

February 26, 2019

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requested, the California State Auditor presents this audit report regarding cities and counties in California that contract with federal entities to house individuals who have been detained for reasons related to immigration (detainees). From July 2013 through June 2018, three cities and four counties had contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees. Additionally, Yolo County has an agreement with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (Refugee Resettlement) to house in its juvenile detention facility individuals under 18 years old who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and no parent or guardian in the country to provide care and physical custody (unaccompanied children).

This report concludes that local governments must improve their oversight of such contracts to address cost overruns and serious health and safety concerns at contracted detention facilities. We found that three cities—Adelanto, McFarland, and Holtville—subcontracted to private operators nearly all of their responsibilities under their ICE contracts, including providing detainees with housing, safekeeping, subsistence, and medical services. The cities provide little or no oversight of the private operators and simply passed federal payments from ICE to these subcontractors despite the fact that federal inspections have found serious health and safety problems at these private detention facilities. For example, a recent federal inspection of the Adelanto Detention Facility reported one suicide and three suicide attempts, inadequate dental care, and cursory medical assessments.

The counties that contract with ICE failed to ensure that ICE fully paid their costs for housing detainees. Although some counties have taken action to resolve these revenue shortfalls, others, such as Orange  County, have not. Orange County’s costs for housing detainees exceeded ICE detainee housing payments by about $1.7 million in fiscal year 2017–18, and it may have had to pay those excess costs with county funds. Yolo County’s May 2018 budget proposal indicates that its past budgets did not include all costs for housing unaccompanied children and that it has substantially subsidized segments of the program.

As our recommendations in this report indicate, California’s cities must provide better oversight of subcontractors to ensure detainees’ health and safety, and counties should take steps to ensure all allowable costs are paid for by federal entities.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor

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