Lax Oversight of Local Contracts Results in Safety Concerns and Cost Overruns, Auditor Says

Local governments need to improve oversight over their contracts with federal immigration officials to address health and safety concerns and cost overruns, the state auditor reported February 26.

Several cities and counties in California have contracted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house individuals who have been detained for immigration-related reasons. In addition, one county has an agreement with the federal government to house children under 18 years old in its juvenile detention facility who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and no parent or guardian in the country available to provide care and physical custody.

The cities of Adelanto, McFarland and Holtville “have not exercised appropriate oversight” over duties they subcontracted to vendors, the auditor reported.

The four counties with ICE contracts reviewed by auditors “have not adequately monitored contract costs,” the state auditor said.

“Federal inspections of the three private detention facilities that house detainees on the cities’ behalf have revealed serious issues that represent significant threats to the health, safety, and rights of detainees,” the auditor stated. “For example, a recent inspection of the Adelanto Detention Facility reported at least one suicide and three suicide attempts, inadequate dental care, and cursory medical assessments. … The cities simply pass federal payments from ICE to these subcontractors, without performing any meaningful oversight.”

Additionally, the auditor found that “Orange County’s costs for housing detainees in fiscal year 2017-18 exceeded the revenue it received for doing so by roughly $1.7 million, yet it did not renegotiate its contract payment rate with ICE to ensure that ICE pays for all allowable detainee costs.”

“Unlike Orange County, Contra Costa County estimated in 2018 that the revenue from ICE exceeded its budgeted expenditures; however, its estimate did not include significant costs such as costs of providing medical care to detainees,” the auditor wrote. “Thus, it cannot know for certain that its payments from ICE in fact covered its costs. Additionally, Yolo County, which has a contract with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement … to house unaccompanied children, did not include in its budgets all of the actual costs of running the Refugee Resettlement program. Specifically, we estimate that Yolo County might have spent approximately $700,000 more than it received from Refugee Resettlement in fiscal year 2017-18 to pay for some of the program’s costs.”

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