Who in the House is Cashing in on Immigrant Detention?

As we covered two weeks ago, the "comprehensive immigration reform" measures being debated in Congress could pour even more millions into the pockets of private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group.  The bill passed by the Senate last month would increase funding for programs like Operation Streamline, which funnel immigrants into the federal criminal justice system are result in more immigrants behind bars.  Now that immigration reform has been passed off to the House of Representatives, we've compiled a list of the the six representatives who benefitted the most from for-profit prison money in 2012.

1. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee, and his Help America’s Leaders PAC received a total of $34,500 from CCA, GEO, and MTC.  The number is fitting -- 34,000 is the number of immigrant detention beds Rogers’ committee mandates that Immigration and Customs Enforcement fill every single day.  With more than half of all detention beds operated by private prison corporations, that means big business for CCA, GEO, and their peers.

2.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) comes in second on our list, bringing in $24,000 from private prison companies in 2012.  The donations came directly to the Boehner's campaign, through his John Boehner for Speaker Committee, and through The Freedom Project-Friends of John Boehner PAC, which is closely aligned with the speaker.  In fact, CCA was one of TFP's biggest donors, having given it $10,000.  Boehner is not only a promoter of immigrant detention, but also one of the main hinderances to new immigration laws coming before the House.

3. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) is the top Democrat on our list and received a total of $17,000 from private prison corporations and their executives in 2012.  It’s perhaps no surprise that Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who once served as Texas Secretary of State under governor Rick Perry, has received private prison money as his south Texas district contains many private detention centers.   What’s more Cuellar, as part of a Blue Dog Democrat coalition, may be in a negotiating position should immigration reform take shape in the House, according to some recent media reports.    

4. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) comes in just below Cueller, having pocketed $16,500 from for-profit prison interests in 2012.  As the chair of the Appropriations 

Subcommittee on Homeland Security, this Tea Party Republican has significant influence over how much money goes to companies likes CCA and GEO.  Most recently, Aderholt presented a DHS budget that would increase funding for ICE’s visa enforcement programs, maintain the 34,000 detention bed mandate, and provide for even more Border Patrol agents than the agency had asked for.  According to his own website, the congressman is “very strongly” opposed to legalization and in favor of enhanced enforcement measures.  Despite his outspoken stance on “fiscal discipline and efficiency,” Aderholt’s budget would pour even more money into anti-immigrant programs -- and private prisons.

5. Tim Ryan (D-OH) makes our list despite his low scores from anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and The New American.  Ryan has used his seat on the House Appropriations committee to advocate for increased border security, immigration enforcement, and, of course, immigrant detention.  In fact, the “Save America Through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act,” which the congressman co-sponsored in 2007 and 2009, would have created 8,000 addition detention beds and instructed DHS to “contract private facilities whenever possible.”  No wonder CCA gave him $11,000.

6. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), another Tea Partier, sits on the House Financial Services Committee and took in $7,624 from CCA and CCA execs.  Fincher has used his platform and his vote to promote mandatory detention, a policy that keeps the private prison industry afloat.  He also supports the programs that criminalize migration, militarize the border, and keep a steady flow of immigrants going to private prisons.

Dis-honorable mentions:

A few dis-honorable mentions made our lists as well.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) received $5,000 from CCA and another $1,000 from Community Education Centers through his Every Republican is Crucial PAC, and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), whose 2006 draconian immigration legislation set off mass protests by immigrants and their allies, received $1,000 from CCA.  

Candidates aren't the only ones taking hefty contributions from the for-profit prison industry.  The National Republican Congressional Committee has received more than $45,530 from private prison companies CCA and GEO and their employees while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received $15,000 from GEO Group last year.