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
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 are speaking out against abuses in the facilities.
Their letters from inside are exposing grossly inadequate medical care and health conditions; unsanitary facilities; sickening food; verbal abuse & harsh, punitive treatment; re-traumatization of survivors of violence; interference with phone conversations.
A recent Homeland Security Department decision to consider ending the widespread outsourcing of immigrant detention could mean overhauling a $2 billion-a-year system built around private prison contractors that house the majority of immigrant detainees.
Critics of ICE question why there are so many people in custody when illegal immigration has slowed significantly. “The growth in the private-prison industry has been driven by more enforcement that fills beds, even at a time of relatively low immigration levels,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that studies for-profit incarceration and favors ending it.
The immigrant-bed quota, which Congress first mandated in 2009, benefits the private-prison industry and promotes detention, Mr. Libal and others say. Read more about Immigrant Detention System Could Be in Line for an Overhaul
A scathing early-August report by the Office of the Inspector General on the quality-of-inmate-life in private prisons led to a very quick decision by the Department of Justice: Unless a new contract is “substantially reduce[d] in scope in a manner consistent with law,” the Bureau of Prisons must allow its current contracts with private prisons to expire.
The U.S. deputy attorney general said she believes this is just the beginning. In a memo to the acting director of the BOP, Sally Q. Yates wrote, “This is the first step in the process of reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”
But on Friday, Aug. 25, Jeh Johnson, homeland security secretary, announced that he has ordered “a review of for-profit immigration detention contracts.”
The homeland security review comes as something of a surprise: In an e-mail to me later on that same Friday, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok indicated that private prisons would continue to be utilized as part of ICE’s inventory of prisoner housing. It should be noted, he included in his message that “ICE detention is solely for the purpose of either awaiting the resolution of an individual’s immigration case or to carry out a removal order. ICE does not detain for punitive reasons.”
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit focused on ending the use of private prisons in the United States, scoffed at the notion that ICE prisons are not punitive.
“People stay in ICE facilities for weeks, months, sometimes years,” he told me in response to Rusnok’s comments. “Just because they put pictures on the walls doesn’t mean [the facilities] are not punitive. There are still locks on the doors and guards to keep you from leaving.” Read more about Private Hells
The Obama administration is considering an end to the practice of keeping immigrant detainees in for-profit centers, weeks after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would stop its use of private prisons.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the immigration service and the Border Patrol, in late August ordered a review of ways to end the use of the private facilities.
A decision to do so would mark a major victory for the coalition of civil rights groups and immigrant advocacy organizations that has sought to roll back the growth of the private-prison industry. Immigration detention facilities house far more detainees than the private facilities the federal prison system has used.
Civil rights advocates have documented a pattern of poor medical care and abuse inside private immigration facilities over the last several years. They say such prisons have an incentive to cut corners and reduce costs.
Although the allegations of abuse are not limited to privately run prisons, “we certainly see a lot of these problems magnified when a company is seeking to extract as much profit as it can out of a detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about White House considers ending for-profit immigrant detainee centers but critics say it could add billions to the cost
It is not clear, at this point, what impact Johnson’s announcement will have on the people incarcerated in immigrant detention centers, which rights campaigners say are more like prisons or even internment camps.
The incarceration of immigrants, migrants and refugees is the area of greatest growth for the private prison industry in the United States, with the companies Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group making windfall profits. According to the latest figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 70 percent of all ICE beds are operated by for-profit companies.
In turn, these corporations have been instrumental in pressing the U.S. government to adopt heavy-handed immigration policies. A report released last year by the organization Grassroots Leadership, which opposes prison profiteering, reveals that the for-profit prison industry in 2009 successfully pressured Congress to adopt the congressional immigrant detention quota, which today directs ICE to hold an average 34,000 people in detention on a daily basis. Read more about DHS To Revisit For-Profit Immigrant Prisons: Will It Also Revisit Mass Detentions?
The Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership last year released a report revealing that private prisons increased their share of the immigrant detention industry after the implementation of the “detention bed quota,” which guaranteed 34,000 immigrants would be detained at any given time.
Private prison corporations accounted for two-thirds of ICE detention beds in 2014, according to the organization. The share of immigration detention beds operated by private prison corporations has increased to 72 percent, as NPR reported. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the country’s two largest private prison companies, operate nine out of ten of the largest detention centers.
The HSAC is comprised of 40 members that advocates have called “an unusual group of people.” Members include controversial New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, a retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Chuck Canterbury, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Marshall Fitz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and Dr. Ned Norris Jr., former chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, a tribe that was divided by the construction of the U.S./Mexico border. Read more about ICE May Stop Contracting With Private Prison Companies
Austin, TX – El Secretario de Seguridad Nacional, Jeh Johnson, ha ordenado al consejo consultivo de la agencia revisar el manejo que dan los corporativos privados a los centros de detención para inmigrantes. El movimiento surgió unos días después de que el “Departament of Justice” (Departamento de Justicia) de los Estados Unidos anunciara que está haciendo ajustes al uso de ceder la operación de prisiones federales a empresas privadas con fines de lucro.
El “Deparament of Homeland Security” (Departamento de Seguridad Nacional) anunció el lunes que revisará su política de detención de inmigrantes en instalaciones manejadas por compañías privadas. El anuncio del Secretario Jeh Johnson llega muy poco después de que surgiera la decisión del Departamento de Justicia en el sentido de hacer ajustes a la operación de la operación que las empresas privadas hacen de los reclusorios federales.
Christina Parker, directora de programas de inmigración en Grassroots Leadership, dice que su grupo ha documentado una retahíla de problemas y abusos en las instalaciones lucrativas para inmigrantes de Texas y de muchas partes.
“Dicen que llevarán a cabo una revisión visual de todos los aspectos de contratación en esos lugares, cómo han operado y qué pasó, el tipo de abusos y negligencias que vemos en esas instalaciones. Cualquier revisión honesta tendría que llevar a finalizar sus contratos, tal como lo hizo el DOJ (Departamento de Justicia).” Read more about El DHS revisará el uso de la detención lucrativa de inmigrantes
AUSTIN, Texas - The federal Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will review its policy of detaining undocumented immigrants in private, for-profit facilities. The announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson comes on the heels of a decision by the Department of Justice to phase out private companies used to operate federal prisons.
Christina Parker, the immigration programs director with Grassroots Leadership, said her group has documented a litany of problems and abuse at the for-profit immigration facilities located in Texas and elsewhere.
"They say that they're going to conduct a review looking at all aspects of contracting in these facilities, how they've operated and what happened there, the kind of abuses and neglect that we see in those facilities," she said. "Any honest review looking at that would have to result in them terminating their contracts just like the DOJ did." Read more about DHS to Review Use of For-Profit Detention for Immigrants
Private prison contractors may lose the ability to run immigrant detention centers as for-profit businesses.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is ordering a review of the agency’s policy of using private contractors to run immigrant detention centers, according to a statement issued Monday.
ICE relies on private companies to handle most of its detention operations. Nearly two-thirds of immigrant detention beds are privatized, according to report last year by Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. By comparison, 12 percent of Bureau of Prisons facilities are run as businesses.
“Based on the stories that have come out of for-profit detention centers for years, including hunger strikes and protests by detained migrants, there is every reason to believe that ICE-contracted private prisons have many of the same problems that the DOJ uncovered this month,” Grassroots Leadership Director Bob Libal wrote in an email. Read more about Obama Administration Considers Ending For-Profit Immigrant Detention
In Arizona, Republican supporters of for-profit prisons ended the cost-benefit discussion about for-profit state prisons in 2012 by repealing a requirement to compare private prisons with those run by the state.
In reality, cost-benefit discussions are a distraction. The bedrock goal of a private prison is to make money. That’s the point.
Detainees are dollar signs. That’s the problem.
“There’s something morally wrong with making a profit from locking up human beings,” Libal said.
Tax dollars built the private prison industry. The withdrawal of tax dollars can dismantle it. Read more about Valdez: Private prisons are an immoral, publicly funded mistake