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
President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally and his selection of tough-on-crime Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general could mean big money for the private prison industry.
Immigration detention centers are particularly profitable for private prison companies because they command a higher rate for each inmate bed, he said.
Yet what’s good for investors isn’t good for the country, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a national nonprofit group that works to reduce incarceration and detention rates.
“”They’re handing the keys to a deportation machine over to the Trump administration,” Libal said. “And I think there’s no reason to believe that the Trump administration won’t drive that machine forward through human rights protections or due process protections people in the detention system.” Read more about Trump stance on illegal immigration may aid private prisons
This past week I had the privilege of traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a border delegation through the Young Adult Volunteer program of the Presbyterian Church USA. Though I had lived on the border for a year and know this particular area quite well, I did not know exactly how this trip would turn out. Read more about Learning from the Borderlands
Deporting one immigrant costs about $10,000. According to the United States Department of Justice, the government spends approximately $5,600 on each immigrant held in a detention center. Trump has vowedto deport two to three million immigrants when he takes office in January, which means the US could spend nearly $17 billion on detention in the coming few years.
"Federal immigrant detention is the private prison cash cow," says Cristina Parker, the director of immigration programs at Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that focuses on the private prison industry. "Stocks going up was a very rational response to someone saying he's going to greatly expand the police state and deportation machine."
"They were on the run, their stocks dropped, shareholders were suing them, things were looking really bad for them," Parker says. "Trump changed all that."
In one letter sent to Grassroots Leadership by 11 women at the CoreCivic-run Laredo detention center, inmates complained about inadequate medical care and access to lawyers and other representation. One woman said that they'd been kept in a cold room overnight, leading her to develop a severe cold. Another, who has diabetes, said she had to hide bread from the guards so that she could eat it in secret when her blood sugar gets low. The women also complained of black water flooding the facilities, being given food that made them ill, and being denied access to the bathroom.
"When we go out for recreation they watch over us with shotguns in their hands as if we were criminals," one woman wrote to Grassroots Leadership. "Since because of the physical damages that I already have in my body from firearms and the psychological impact of that, they make me feel afraid." Read more about Trump’s Win Has Already Boosted Stocks of Private Prison Companies
Among President-elect Donald Trump's primary policy objectives once he officially assumes the nation's highest office is a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, and investors in the private prison industry, which benefits substantially from such laws, are taking note.
"It's certainly true that for-profit prison stocks are soaring on hopes that Trump will incarcerate more people," Bob Libal, executive director of the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told International Business Times in a phone interview.
Dismantling the DOJ's check on federal use of private prisons, “would be an enormously bad decision—we would be keeping prisons open that we don’t need, or seeking to fill them," Libal, the Grassroots Leadership director, said. He added that Companies like GEO Group “are betting heavily that Trump is going to be the savior of the for-profit prison industry." Read more about How For-Profit Prisons Could Benefit Under President-Elect Donald Trump
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Private prison stocks surged after Tuesday night’s election, in speculation that Donald Trump will make good on his promise to put more people behind bars. Read more about Private prison stock skyrockets in anticipation of Trump’s promises to lock up more immigrants and people of color
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Advocates are telling the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that a contract with a private prison company for a South Texas detention center should not be renewed while the federal government reviews private immigration detention contracts. Read more about Dept. of Homeland Security urged to stop renewal for South Texas detention center contract
On Sunday, presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for his first 100 days in office, which includes new mandatory minimum sentences for those who have crossed the border without documentation. These prosecutions already make up nearly half of all federal prosections annually.
The plan would create a "2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations."
Read more about Trump's immigration plan would add another unnecessary mandatory minimum
Currently, illegal re-entry is punishable by up to two years in prison, although a prior criminal record can add more years to a sentence. Last year, Republicans in Congress introduced a bill called "Kate's Law," named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by a man with several violent felonies and illegal re-entries into the country. That bill would have also strengthened sentences for illegal re-entry, but advocacy groups that oppose mandatory minimums say Trump's proposal would go even further.
Illegal entry and re-entry is already one of the most prosecuted crimes in the U.S. and sucks up an enormous amount of federal resources. According to a report by Grassroots Leadership earlier this year, prosecutions of illegal entry and re-entry into the country already makes up 49 percent of the federal caseload every year. Foreign nationals make up 22 percent of the federal Bureau of Prisons system, which was operating at 20 percent over its maximum capacity as of 2015. The current average sentence for illegal re-entry is 18 months, according to the report.
What it [mandatory minimums] can make a statistically significant impact on is the Justice Department budget. The prosecution and incarceration of illegal entry and re-entry offenders under Operation Streamline has cost $7 billion since 2005, according to the Grassroots Leadership report.
This past August, the Department of Justice released a statement that it would begin the process of phasing out private prison contracts in federal prisons. According to the Department of Justice, the decision came in response to a declining prison population and acknowledgements that private prisons often have lower safety and security standards.
Private prison corporations, such as Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) and GEO Group, were struggling in the early 2000s. However, following 9/11, immigration became a national security issue, which led to an increase in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The growth in ICE following 9/11 led to CCA and GEO Group being awarded lucratvie immigrant detention center contracts.
These private prison contracts often include a further requirement that the government keep immigrant detention centres full and at times contain a "tiered pricing structure" that provides discounts for those detained in excess of the guaranteed minimum. Private prison companies now control 62 percent of immigration detention beds in the US, according to a report by Grassroots Leadership.
Following the Department of Justice's announcement, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would evaluate whether it will phase out the use of private immigrant detention centers as well. Read more about Is this the end of prison for profit in the US?
A federal court ruling on Wednesday invalidated thousands of immigration detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in over thirty states, including Texas. The ruling will not impact those sent to the Travis County Jail, which detains undocumented immigrants that are being held for deportation. However Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit group, expects that to change.
"This court decision essentially confirms what we've been saying for years, which is that not only do immigration detainers in the jail break up immigrant families, but they are also unconstitutional," said Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal.
KUVE did reach out to ICE for a statement, but a spokesperson said they are reviewing the ruling to determine its course of action. Read more about Immigrant detainers ruled invalid in more than 30 states including Texas
(AUSTIN, Texas) — As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigates its use of private prisons, women currently and formerly detained in two CCA-operated immigrant detention centers in Texas and their families are speaking out against abuses in the facilities. Read more about As DHS investigates its use of private prisons, women decry abuses in Texas detention centers