Biden admin pushes to reopen immigrant detention center amid lingering COVID-era freeze

The Biden administration is calling on a federal judge to unfreeze an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, which has been largely empty due to a COVID-era order that has still not been lifted.

The Department of Justice, in a filing last week, requested that the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Eastern Division lift a ban on new detainees at the facility in Adelanto, California.

The facility in Adelanto, California, can house nearly 2,000 inmates but was blocked by a September 2020 court order in response to a lawsuit from immigrant activists calling for fewer inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fox News Digital reported in November that the facility was expected to close in December, but ICE then launched a 60-day task order to evaluate the effect of ongoing litigation, the costs of maintenance and the operational requirements.

TAXPAYERS STILL ON HOOK FOR COVIC-SHUTTERED ICE FACILITY AMID OBJECTIONS BY BLUE STATE LAWMAKER

The move suggested that, instead of closing the facility, ICE is trying to get it back open. But as it stands, the facility remains closed, even as other facilities both locally and across the country have re-opened and the U.S. has largely moved on from COVID. 

ICE extended the task order for another 60 days in January, and recently announced another extension that will extend the order until September. The task orders are implemented with GEO Group, which runs the facility and recently revealed that its contract generates $85 million in revenue per year. 

“The ability for the agency to remove individuals to their home countries, hold those in custody who require detention and are a public safety threat is directly dependent on location and availability of detention space,” ICE spokesperson Jenny Burke said in May announcing the evaluation’s extension. “ICE continues to modernize the immigration system as resources allow to realize cost efficiencies across the operational landscape.”

The request this week by the DOJ would seek to keep some COVID restrictions in place, including separation, meaning the initial intake would see the population at fewer than 500 people. 

The DOJ argued that even without those measures in place, “the current nature of COVID-19 greatly mitigates concerns about detainee safety.”

ICE EXTENDS EVALUATION OF CALIFORNIA DETENTION FACILITY LEFT LARGELY EMPTY SINCE 2020

It argues that the conditions for lifting the ban have been satisfied.

“The Court should, therefore, lift the Intake Ban and permit Defendants to resume accepting new or transfer detainees at Adelanto, subject to all other existing orders of the Court.”

The move was welcomed by Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., who has been pushing for months for the facility to be re-opened.

“The Department of Justice’s decision to file a motion in court requesting that the Adelanto ICE Processing Center be fully reopened to hold and process new detainees is a welcome step to ensuring this facility is fully operational,” he said. “I hope the court will take the DOJ’s motion seriously and move swiftly to lift the intake prohibition and ensure the center is used for its intended purpose. It is time to end the failed policy of catch-and-release.”

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It comes the same week in which President Biden announced new executive action to curb the numbers coming across the border. The bar on asylum saw immediate criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Get the latest updates on the ongoing border crisis from the Fox News Digital immigration hub.