November 05, 2019

Jack Horan Provides Insight Into Controversy Around Federal Solicitation for Detention Facilities in California

Government Contracts partner Jack Horan spoke with the Palm Springs Desert Sun for their article, “Homeland Security’s Solicitation for Detention Facilities Could Violate Law, Experts Say.”

The publication reports that lawmakers and immigrant advocates are “crying foul on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s solicitation for at least four private immigration detention centers in California, arguing it could have violated basic requirements of a federal law intended to foster competition for government contracts.”

Immigration officials, the Desert Sun says, appear to have rushed the bidding process and skirted the rules of the federal Competition in Contracting Act in an attempt to secure new contracts for the operators of four existing private immigrant detention centers before state law AB 32 takes effect next year, phasing out the use of private, for-profit prisons in the state.

At issue is a solicitation, posted Oct. 16 on the Federal Business Opportunities website and open for just over two weeks, which describes the locations and bed counts of the desired facilities. It provides details that “mirror the specifications of the four existing private immigration detention facilities in California,” according to the news outlet.

Federal law requires full and open competition for all procurements, based on the theory that more competition reduces costs and allows more small businesses to win federal government contracts. The government is also required to provide possible bidders with a “reasonable opportunity” to respond to a solicitation — typically at least 30 days — but in this case, Homeland Security provided just 19 days.

Horan characterized the response time as “especially short,” since the four facilities would be providing complex services like housing, medical care and transportation.

“In my view, this does not appear to be a reasonable response time given the complexity of the solicitation,” Horan told the Desert Sun. “I would say it could be a significant violation of the procurement regulations because it will not provide potential offerors a reasonable opportunity to respond to the solicitation and it will limit competition.”

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