Cuellar’s public push to detain and deport migrant children drew a rebuke (The Hill, July 11, 2014) last week from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. CHC’s chairman Ruben Hinojosa, a fellow Texan told reporters at a press conference that: "Henry Cuellar does not represent the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He's a Blue Dog; he comes to the meetings once in a long time."
The CHC has called for maintaining legal protections for children from Central America and allowing kids to be able to fight their cases in courts rather than through an expedited deportation policy. Experts have noted that Honduras — the country where the most unaccompanied children are migrating — has the highest murder rate in the world and that rapid deportation of children and families would result in some of those deportees being killed.
Cuellar’s border-hawk policies are nothing new. Cuellar was one of only 11 Democrats that last year supported continuing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) bed quota that mandates that 34,000 immigrants are detained every single day. The majority of those detained are held in for-profit private prisons. Cuellar also has been a supporter of Operation Streamline, a program that funnels immigrants in the federal criminal justice system and has overwhlemed the federal court system and swelled the federal prison system, directly benefiting private prison corporations.
Perhaps it should not be surprising that Cuellar is the largest recipient of private prison money in the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Thus far in the 2013-2014 campaign cycle, Cuellar has received at least $10,000 in campaign contributions from private prison company GEO Group, according to data from InfluenceExplorer.com. Cuellar was the third on our list of House members cashing in on private prison money during the debate over immigration reform last summer.
In fact, San Antonio’s KSAT aired a special two-part exposé on the private prison industry and specifically confronted Cuellar about his private prison contributions. Cuellar’s response? "Well, you know, I do raise good money from so many sources and I know how to raise money."
That’s not a very persuasive response when you’re talking about policies that put people’s lives and livelihoods at risk while enriching a multi-billion for-profit prison industry.