SANTA ANA, California — Immigration authorities will expand a Southern California detention facility to get more bed space for women with criminal records, immigrants with medical needs, recently arrived asylum seekers and other detainees.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is getting an additional 640 beds at a privately contracted detention facility some 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles starting in July, raising the total number of beds to 1,940.
The move helps consolidate detention space because beds are expensive and hard to find in cities such as San Francisco, said David Marin, ICE's deputy field office director for enforcement and removal in Los Angeles. Most detainees at the center have criminal records, officials said.
The expansion of the facility in Adelanto run by GEO Group comes as the number of detained immigrants has dropped nationwide. From October 2014 to March 2015, the average number of immigrants in detention each day totaled 26,734, down 21 percent from the previous fiscal year's daily average.
Immigrant advocates said the expansion clashes with Obama administration policies aimed at detaining fewer immigrants. They also questioned the quality of medical care at the center, which opened in 2011.
GEO Group officials declined to comment.
ICE, which announced a proposal earlier this week to consider housing transgender immigration detainees by the gender they identify with, plans to move about two dozen transgender detainees from a city-owned facility in Santa Ana to the new women's section in Adelanto, said Virginia Kice, an agency spokeswoman.
Immigration officials also contract for space at several other area facilities that are run by law enforcement agencies. In Orange County, two jails used for immigration detainees have seen their numbers decline, said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a sheriff's department spokesman. Those beds were about 70 percent occupied as of last week, he said.
The average daily rate that ICE must pay to house a detainee in Adelanto is $111, compared with $118 at the Orange County Sheriff's Department facilities and $142 at centers in the San Diego area, according to ICE. The national average is $122 a day.