The federal agency that oversees immigration detention will solicit bids next month for a new 2,200-bed detention center in the Los Angeles area.

Update:
As of Dec. 14 ICE has delayed its bid solicitation date.

“The Government anticipates release of the solicitation during the first quarter of 2010. The response date will be changed based on the date of release,” according to the fedbizopps.gov.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, posted an online notice this week stating that it intends to open bids on Dec. 15 for a contractor to own and operate a low-custody detention facility for men. The facility would be one of the largest immigration lock-ups in the country.

Continuing a policy pushed under the Bush administration, the Obama team has moved to deport more criminal aliens, which has also driven a need for more bed space.

Los Angeles County is one of the first counties in California to participate in ICE’s Secure Communities program, which screens the immigration status of all booked inmates. Several dozen counties, mostly along the Southwest border, participate in the program, which will be rolled out nationwide over the next few years.

Update:
ICE announced today that its Secure Communities initiative identified more than 111,000 criminal aliens in local custody during its first year. From the press release:

Since its inception in October 2008, Secure Communities has identified more than 11,000 aliens charged or convicted with Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping—1,900 of which have already been removed from the United States—and more than 100,000 aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes.

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Currently, DHS prioritizes the deployment of Secure Communities to jurisdictions with the highest volume of dangerous criminal aliens.

Homeland Security officials have said they want to reform immigration detention, including increased use of alternatives to detention such as ankle bracelet monitoring. Immigration advocates have said that the reforms are a good start, but don’t go far enough to address human rights concerns.

Officials have also indicated that they aim to shift toward more civil rather than prison-like detention centers. In announcing a number of initiatives, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE chief John Morton last month said ICE has begun the creation of a custody classification system to assign detainees to appropriate facilities based on risk assessment.

According to the pre-solicitation notice posted on the federal contracting Web site fedbizopps.gov, the facility will generally house men convicted of non-violent offenses, “non-convicted criminals” and “fugitive aliens and immigration recidivists.” No more than 10 percent of the detainees will be violent criminals.

ICE also wants immigration courtrooms at the detention center, which will have two main housing areas of no more than 1,000 detainees each, subdivided into units of approximately 60 beds. The notice also calls for a 200-bed unit for administrative and disciplinary segregation and a 100-bed health care facility with medical, dental, and mental health services.

The five-year base contract is expected to be awarded in July. The response deadline is Feb. 22.

ICE closed a detention center on Terminal Island in San Pedro about two years ago because of needed repairs. More than 400 detainees were transferred to other facilities in California, Arizona, Texas and Washington, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.