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
In early October, representatives from Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families (TUFF) traveled to Houston, TX to meet with members of La Tuya (Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance) and LIFT (Liberating Immigrant Families Together) to strategize the closure of Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas. Read more about Dialogue on Detention: Closing Polk Together
Texans in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley are organizing to close more than a dozen individual Wells Fargo accounts on Thursday. We are protesting the financial institution doing business with companies that profiteer from locking up immigrants. Read more about How (And Why) to Close Your Accounts with Wells Fargo This Halloween
What would it mean to you to know that you aren't alone and haven't been forgotten?
Shortly after their marriage in 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents took Naz away from his wife, Hope. Read more about You Can Visit A Person in Immigration Detention
Check out the above video from our friends at Community Initiatives Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVC) that explains the ICE bed mandate in detail.
Business is booming for private prisons that house immigrants thanks to the little-known “bed quota.” Read more about Who Benefits from the ICE Bed Quota? Not You.
This week, National Immigration Forum posted their report, The Math of Immigration Detention: Runaway Costs for Immigration Detention Do Not Add Up to Sensible Policies, examining the cost to taxpayers of detaining immigrants, the majority of whom have no criminal record. Additionally, the report highlights how the private for-profit prison industry stands to gain the most from the growing number of immigrants in detention facilities.
The report paints a clear picture of the exorbitant amount of money the federal government continues to spend on detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year, while funding allocated for alternatives to detention, which would keep immigrants in their communities with their families, remains dwarfed in comparison to detention.Read more about It's Elementary: The Cost of Immigration Detention Doesn't Add Up
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.
Today's USA Today carried a disturbing article highlighting Immigration and Customs Enforcement's effort to increase the number of deportations through aggressive enforcement mechanisms.
Internal emails at the agency showed that ICE agents "were trolling state driver's license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses."
The former official whose emails are heavily quoted in the article is David Venturella, former assistant director at ICE. Guess where Mr. Venturella ended up after his term at ICE? Mr. Venturella is now the Executive Vice President for Corporate Development at GEO Group, according to his LinkedIn profile. GEO Group is a private prison corporation that heavily depends on federal immigration contracts to ensure a steady profit stream and employs a stream of heavily connected lobbyists in DC.Read more about ICE Official that Pushed Deportation Quota Now Works for Private Prison Corporation GEO Group
In the last two years, major private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have spent at least $4,350,000 on lobbying the federal government, primarily to win immigration-related contracts. What does that kind of money buy you? Some pretty lucrative contracts, apparently. In 2011, the federal government paid $1.4 billion to the two corporations, nearly a third of their total profits.
In fact, a 2011 report by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network found that private prison corporations operate nearly half of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds. What's more, private prison corporations are benefiting greatly from the criminalization of migration through programs like Operation Streamline.
It’s no surprise – or secret – that immigration reform which reduces detentions and deportations would be a threat to private prison corporations' business. Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors:
"At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities."
That same year, CCA stated in its annual earnings report that immigration reform
“could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."
So who are these wealthy private prison corporations looking to to win them immigration detention contracts? Below the jump are just some of the some the major lobbyists for private prison interests in Washington:Read more about Meet the private prison industry’s lobbyists who could shape immigration reform