June 01, 2011 2:46 PM
AMY TAXIN
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Immigration authorities will add another 1,300 beds to detain suspected illegal immigrants in Southern California, officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced an agreement to set up the facility in the city of Adelanto to create more bed space in a region where a substantial number of immigrants are detained.

Authorities said they are trying to cut down on the transfer of detainees to faraway locations often out of state — a practice that has been criticized by advocates trying to represent the immigrants in court.

The agreement with the city of Adelanto — which in turn has contracted with The Geo Group, of Boca Raton, Fla., to oversee the facility — brings the number of beds available in the greater Los Angeles region to more than 3,000.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is see that everyone who can be housed here locally is housed here locally,” said Timothy Robbins, field office director in Los Angeles for ICE’s enforcement and removal operations.

Immigration authorities have been expanding detention space in Southern California. Last year, authorities inked an agreement with Orange County to start using roughly 830 beds that were previously used by inmates in the county jails.

Authorities can also house up to 1,400 immigrants at a facility owned by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department and another 200 at a jail in Santa Ana.

In Adelanto, authorities will be able to house up to 650 immigrants starting in August in a facility that was previously used for low level criminal offenders. Adelanto sold the facility last year for $28 million to Geo, which plans to add another 650 beds by August 2012.

In recent years, immigration attorneys have seen their clients transferred to detention centers in New Mexico, Texas and Washington state due to a lack of bed space in Los Angeles. That’s especially been the case since a troubled, federally-operated facility in San Pedro shut down in 2007.

Stacy Tolchin, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, welcomed the plan to keep detainees closer to family, attorneys and under the laws of the state in which they live. But Tolchin and other immigrant advocates said they thought authorities could lock up fewer immigrants than they do.

“The reality is when there’s more bed space, they’ll fill it up,” Tolchin said.

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