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California Cities Are Ending ICE Detention Contracts, but Immigrants Might Not Go Free

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Ever since Nancy Torres’ son was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in November of 2017, he has been detained in California’s Orange County, not far from Torres’ home in El Monte. Though the past year and a half has been difficult, she’s tried to visit him whenever she can, and she was grateful when some local lawyers agreed to take on his case for free.

But soon, Torres fears, her son won’t be able to see her or his lawyers anymore. In March, Orange County abruptly announced that it would be ending its agreement with ICE to detain immigrants in county jails. Now, immigration lawyers fear that ICE could transfer the county’s hundreds of detainees to remote detention facilities out of the state, where they can’t see their families or attorneys.

“If he goes somewhere else, I’m scared,” Torres says. “Who’s going to visit him? Who’s going to help him?” Orange County is the latest in a growing number of cities and counties across the country that have ended their detention contracts with ICE over the past year, putting many detainees in the same position as Torres’ son. In California, five of the seven local governments that had active detention contracts have terminated their agreements since the beginning of last year.

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