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 #ShutDownHutto Campaign
Two reports bring back to the forefront the issue of existing policies and financial incentives that stand in the way of due process for individuals in immigration detention centers.
Both reports released this spring — one by Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership and the other by Detention Watch Network — reveal the growing role private prison corporations play in the detention of immigrants due in part to a requirement by Congress to maintain a specific number of detention beds. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency spends nearly $2 billion annually on the detention of people. Private companies control about 62 percent of the detention beds used by ICE, according to the Grassroots report. Both reports call on Congress to eliminate the immigrant detention quota from its 2016 appropriations request.
The two largest private prison companies involved in detention — Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group – were awarded nearly half a billion dollars from immigrant detention services in 2014 alone, according to the Grassroots report. Both companies received contracts to operate family detention centers in Texas following the child migrant crisis last year. The newly constructed 2,200-bed family detention center in Dilley is operated by CCA. The 530-bed detention center in Karnes City is run by GEO Group. Read more about Immigration detention center quotas need revision
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A “Free the People” caravan from Oakland to Bakersfield brought together immigration advocates, youth leaders, and community organizers from around the state at the Mesa Verde Detention Center on Saturday May 30th.
According to the BAJI website, one of demands of the caravan was an end to the so-called “bed quota,” by which Congress requires that the federal government keep 34,000 beds in detainment centers filled at all times. Sixty-two percent of these beds are owned by private companies like the GEO Group, according to a report released last month by Grassroots Leadership, which also said that the GEO Group has seen its profits rise by 244 percent since the quota was implemented. Read more about Caravan Seeks to End Mass Detention
A conversation on prison in America wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the prison industrial complex and private prisons. The term “prison industrial complex” is used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. People get paid off of prison, basically. The term is derived from the military industrial complex of the 1950s.
In 2010 the Department of Homeland Security adopted a bed quota that required Immigration and Custom Enforcement to detain about 34,000 individuals on any given day. The quota certainly did not benefit immigrants, but it did prove to be extraordinarily lucrative for the private prison companies that picked up the new business. 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 that bed quota, but to enact conservative immigration reform that would continue to ensure a steady flow of inmates into its detention centers. So they get paid to put immigrants in beds in private prisons, in America. Read more about The Full Transcript Of Heems' Lecture On Police Brutality And South Asian American Apathy
A former detainee says Immigration and Customs Enforcement must stop housing transgender women with men in private prisons. In a word, it's about rape.
But another report, released in early April by anti-incarceration group Grassroots Leadership, finds that ultimate goal should be the complete removal of for-profit operation of ICE detention centers.
The report, titled Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota, says private corrections giants enjoy a unique position in terms of being guaranteed a revenue stream via a congressional mandate. The report names GEO Group, which runs the Texas prison named in the DOJ report, and Corrections Corporation of America, the operator of the facility where Gamino alleges she was raped, as key perpetrators of this prison-for-profit situation.
Grassroots Leadership reports that the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 includes language that has been interpreted as requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fill 33,400 beds (later increased to 34,000 beds) with detained immigrants on a daily basis.
"The directive would come to be known as the 'immigrant detention quota' or 'bed mandate,'" reads the report. "The immigration detention quota is unprecedented; no other law enforcement agency operates under a detention quota mandated by Congress."
Grassroots Leadership's Payoff report included Gamino's story, beginning with her childhood in Phoenix, where she grew up after being brought from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was 6 years old. Read more about Women Are Still Locked in Immigration Detention Cells With Men Just Because They're Trans
The view that immigrant detention needs rethinking has gained wider traction in recent months, following the Obama administration's expansion of family detention. Roughly 68,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally into the United States last year, as did a similar number of children and female guardians traveling together. The vast majority came from the violence- and poverty-plagued Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and they generally presented themselves directly to border authorities, in hopes of being treated like refugees and allowed to pursue asylum claims.
Private prison companies operate 62 percent of the immigration detention system, according to a report published earlier this year by Texas-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. That figure is up from 49 percent in 2009. The report argues that privatizing detention creates incentives for corporations to lobby in favor of harsher immigration laws. Read more about Here's The Case For Abolishing Immigrant Detention
"At any given time in the United States of America, 34,000 jail beds are made ready for immigrants to fill. According to the April 2015 report by the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership ‘Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota’, sixty-two percent of these beds are now operated by private prison corporations, which rake in millions of profits from government contracts. Immigrants are now the largest market for these corporations.
Moreover, millions of dollars have been poured into the federal justice system to fund the salaries of privately contracted defense attorneys, for example and into internal immigration enforcement, to accommodate the arrest, prosecution, detention, and deportation of immigrants. Immigrant detention has contributed to the 500 percent increase in our nation’s incarcerated population. In 2013, immigrants made up 10 percent of the federal prison population. This mass detention of immigrants has helped to increase the number of deportations. Under the Obama Administration, two million people have been deported.  This system is an affront to the Christian values of acting justly and welcoming the stranger." Read more about Caught in the Net of Corporate Greed: Our Immigrant Sisters and Brothers
"The privately-run detention facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, is paid $275 per day per detainee, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin. 'At full build out it will bring $660,000 per day or $240 million in annual revenue from this one detention camp,' Libal said.
That’s all paid for with American taxpayer funds and is a prime example of why detainees need to be processed and adjudicated quickly through our courts.
As Cuellar told us: 'Right now the backlog is just tremendous so this will allow us to have hearings before the judges on a much faster pace so we can get rid of the backlog. Whatever the judge’s decide — whether they can stay or return — at least they get a day before a judge.'" Read more about Editorial: More immigration judges will help courts, country
[Clinton’s campaign] also noted an April 2015 report by Grassroots Leadership, which advocates an end to for-profit incarceration, showing the impact of lobbying by the private prison industry on immigration policies.