On any given day, at least 34,000 people are detained in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. to meet an arbitrary lock-up quota dictated by Congress. Stopping the quota would be a giant step forward in ending our reliance on detention. Grassroots Leadership researches and exposes the role of for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in enacting the quota contributes to the growing national movement to stop immigrant detention.
Detention and the #EndTheQuota Campaign
(AUSTIN, Texas) — As Hillary Clinton stated this week in her roundtable discussion, many Americans don’t realize that there is a quota requiring the detention of tens of thousands of immigrants at any given time, and that many immigrant detention facilities are run by for-profit prison companies that have built-in incentives to fill them up. “I also think we have to reform detention system. I'm not sure a lot of Americans know a lot of the detention facilities for immigrants are run by private companies. They have a built in incentive to fill them up. Read more about Grassroots Leadership fact checks Hillary Clinton’s criticism of for-profit immigrant detention
A House lawmaker says he expects the Obama administration to find enough illegal immigrants to fill the detention beds Congress funds — or face budgetary consequences.
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, says the administration is confused in its interpretation of a law (PL 114-4) that funds 34,000 beds for those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Culberson says the agency is required to fill the beds, not just have them on hand.
If ICE keeps falling short of the quota, Congress will use its power of the purse to push changes, he told CQ RollCall in an interview.
Meanwhile, legal advocacy groups are making the case that immigrants shouldn't be imprisoned for minor civil infractions. They're protesting private prison companies they say lobby for policies that over-criminalize immigrants.
Grassroots Leadership, a social justice group that opposes for-profit incarceration, says ICE's two largest private prison contractors – Geo Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America – were major supporters of increases to the detention bed quota, which was first written into law in 2010.
Since then, the two companies have increased their share in the immigration detention system, now operating eight of the 10 largest detention centers and 72 percent of the privately contracted ICE beds, according to a recent report by Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Republicans Bedcheck an Immigration Detention Program
Outside, more than 100 activists from half a dozen organizations were protesting the Boca Raton firm. Members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Dream Defenders, Enlace International, SEIU-Florida and the Palm Beach Environmental Coalition were on hand, as was Texas-based Grassroots Leadership, which has worked with Karnes facility immigrants.
Protesters blasted the billion-dollar company’s fundamental business, which hinges on a daily payment rate for every prisoner or immigrant it houses. Read more about Hunger strike? What hunger strike? GEO asks as protests mark meeting
Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General released a report chronicling a number of egregious practices taking place at the one of the world’s largest for-profit prisons. Reeves C
There’s even a lockup quota at the federal level: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention budget includes a mandate from Congress that at least 34,000 immigrants remain detained on a daily basis, a quota that has steadily grown each year, even as the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has leveled off. Private prisons have profited handsomely from that policy, owning nine of the 10 largest ICE detention centers, according to a report released this month by Grassroots Leadership.
With the growing influence of the prison lobby, the nation is, in effect, commoditizing human bodies for an industry in militant pursuit of profit. Read more about How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about
Perhaps the most alarming finding is that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) asked GEO Group to eliminate minimum staffing requirements for correctional officers, medical care providers and other personnel in its original bid for the facility. Not surprisingly, the prison was almost continuously understaffed from 2007 to March 2009, following two riots in late 2008 and early 2009 that did more than $1 million worth of damage. “BOP officials told us they removed these staffing requirements to achieve cost savings and grant the contractor flexibility and discretion to manage the staffing of the facility,” the report states.
“This audit confirms what we’ve suspected about the BOP’s contracts for private prisons for immigrants for many years,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based group that opposes private prisons. “An extreme lack of accountability has created an unsafe and inhumane system of incarcerating immigrants in substandard private prisons. While immigrants suffer, unaccountable prison corporations are making big bucks off these contracts paid for by taxpayers.” Read more about World’s Largest For-Profit Prison Blasted in Federal Audit
Private prisons that have contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to keep a steady population of 34,000 migrants detained at all times, a study by the Austin, Texas-based Grassroots Leadership group found.
Grassroots Leadership researched detention conditions across the country and concluded that nine of the 10 facilities used by the Department of Homeland Security to house undocumented immigrants were private, and eight of them were owned by two corporations that have posted record profits since 2009. Read more about Study: Private prison firms spend millions to ensure steady supply of undocumented immigrants
In Congress, Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America and other private prison companies spend millions on lobbying. Much of that lobbying is focused on powerful members of the appropriations committee like Culberson, who received campaign contributions from CCA, which runs detention facilities including Dilley’s controversial South Texas Residential Center, which detains women and children.
A new study by the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership finds that the private prison industry has increased its share of immigrant detention beds by 13 percent since the 2009 quota was passed. For-profit corporations now operate sixty-two percent of ICE immigration detention beds.
At one point during the U.S. House Appropriations Committee hearing last week, Saldaña tries to explain to the tea-partier Culberson that she can’t put people in detention “just for the heck of it.” Read more about ICE Director to U.S. Rep. Culberson: We Can’t Just Put People in Detention for ‘the Heck of it’
Detained asylum-seeking mothers at a for-profit detention center in Texas have gone on a hunger strike seeking their release, Freedom Speech Radio News reports.
The women, many of whom fled their countries in Central America out of fear of violence or persecution, have all passed the “credible fear test” and qualify as asylum seekers. Despite that, they are still held with their children — some as young as 2 years old — in the Karnes Residential Center, a prison-like facility in South Texas, waiting for their cases to be processed.
According to a new report from the Grassroots Leadership, private for-profit prison corporations spent $11 million over six years to lobby Congress to keep a mandatory immigrant detention quota.
Today, 9 out of the 10 largest immigrant detention centers are private, with 8 owned by only two corporations, the GED Group and CCA. Since the end of 2007, the GEO Group has increased their profits by 244% and CCA by 46%. Read more about Asylum-seeking mothers launch hunger strike over inhumane conditions at Texas detention center
A report released last week by Grassroots Leadership, a Texas non-profit, details how private prison companies have spent five years lobbying the government, not only to maintain the quota, but to enact conservative immigration reform that would continue to ensure a steady flow of inmates into its detention centers.
“Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention,” says 62 percent of all ICE detention beds now are operated by for-profit prison companies. In fact, nine out of the 10 largest immigrant detention camps are private, with eight owned by only two corporations -- Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. Those two corporations reaped about $500 million in 2014 alone.
“The immigrant detention quota continues to be a prime example of how money and political gain can drive policy decisions," the report notes. "Those harmed by the immigrant detention quota have far less power and money: immigrants, their families, and the average American taxpayer." Read more about Report: Private Prison Lobbyists Spend Millions To Keep Immigrants Locked Up