Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez called Friday for the passage of a law designed to temporarily restrict private companies from operating detention centers and similar facilities within the city.
The council president’s motion to enact an interim control ordinance would apply to so-called “shelters” for unaccompanied immigrant minors, like one proposed by the company VisionQuest in Arleta.
Martinez’s motion was waived through the city council committee process, and the full council is expected to vote on Wednesday, according to her office, once the ordinance is written.
“Our legislation introduced today is a major step forward in banning detention centers in the city of Los Angeles,” Martinez said. “I will not stand idly by and allow for-profit companies to get rich off of the anguish and suffering of immigrant children in Arleta, or anywhere else in Los Angeles.”
Martinez said the need for the temporary ban on shelters is because there have been reports that VisionQuest and other private detention operators have not run adequate facilities. The temporary ban is expected to last 45 days after it is passed, with the council having the option to extend it 10 months, with another option to extend it a year after that.
Calls to VisionQuest’s headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, were not immediately returned.
“VisionQuest … has a controversial background in `discipline therapy’ and should not be anywhere near immigrant children, many of whom are no doubt traumatized by the federal government’s inhumane treatment of them thus far,” Martinez said. “Our community and supporters are united in our opposition of this proposed children’s prison and all others that might follow.”
The city council voted last year to create an ordinance that would ban the construction and operation of private detention facilities in Los Angeles. VisionQuest typically operates housing and services for youths who have been assigned to the company by a judge or foster services.
VisionQuest obtained $25 million contracts from the federal government last year to operate immigrant facilities in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, according to LAist.
Martinez introduced a motion in November seeking information from the city’s Planning Department and City Attorney’s Office on the proposed location and the site’s zoning in an effort to determine if the area is suitable for the project.
On Jan. 6, a group of protesters and several local elected officials voiced opposition to the VisionQuest shelter, which is at 9120 Woodman Ave.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in October that bans the establishment of private detention facilities from operating within the state.
According to the investigative journalism website Reveal from The Center of Investigative Reporting, notes between city officials and VisionQuest indicate the company wants to lease the vacant two-story building in Arleta, and it “will host children who have entered the country as unaccompanied minors.” The building is a former senior living facility, according to Martinez.
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