Private prison exec to Texas town: No problem finding "illegals" to fill detention center

The City of Alvarado, Texas, according to news reports, has entered into an agreement to open a more than 700 bed immigration detention center to be operated by private prison corporation Emerald Companies.  According to the Alvarado Star, the facility will be publicly financed through revenue bonds issued by the city's Public Facilities Corporation. The debt will be, if a contract can be maintained, paid back through revenue brought in by a contract with the federal government to detain immigrants at the facility.   

Emerald Companies sold the city on the idea of floating debt to build the detention center.  Their CEO's exchange, as reported on the Star, with an Alvardo official is telling:

“I am concerned about ICE going away,” Commissioner Rick Bailey said. “What if the illegals become citizens, what happens to the property?”

[Steve Afeman, chief executive officer of Emerald Correctional Management] wasn't concerned.

“There were 495,000 illegal detainees last year,” he said. “Even if 50 percent commit crimes and are considered a different category prisoner (to be incarcerated at another level facility), there would still be more than 200,000 detainees.”

ICE budgets for 900 detainees per night in the Southwest area, Afeman said. Guaranteeing 525 for Alvarado is no problem, he added.

Afeman's are disturbing for a number of reasons.  First, here is a private prison executive gloating over the the number of "illegals" that will fill his facility and therefore make his company profit.  He's betting against a reduction in detention, probably relying on the notorious immigration detention bed quota which mandates 34,000 detention beds are maintained every single day.  

However, a growing number of Texas private prisons built on speculation have failed in recent years to win or maintain contracts.  Just take a look at Emerald's own history.  The company pulled out of the LaSalle County Detention Center in Encinal after failing to secure a profitable enough contract with the federal government and the County is currently facing default on its bonds.  Several other Texas communities have faced similar problems — including Waco's Jack Harwell Detention Center and the empty Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield — as well.  

Alvarado has clearly been sold a bill of goods here, and the city and federal government should be wary of contracting with companies whose leaders openly use dispariging terms for immigrants and gloat about making money off of their prolonged detention.