Principle number four of the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, a national coalition for which Grassroots Leadership provides coordination, reads:
Public safety and justice can only be achieved when criminal justice policy is free of corporate influence and expressly intends to enhance the public good.
Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat representing a large chunk of Texas’ border with Mexico, provides a prime and disappointing example of the consequences of allowing the for-profit private prison industry to lobby and financially contribute to political campaigns.
Cuellar’s 28th district is literally on the front lines of the national debate on “comprehensive immigration reform” and “border security”. In our report Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences, the Southern District of Texas' federal court system, which includes part of the 28th Congressional district, topped the list of prosecutions for entering the country without authorization. The Southern Districted trailed only Arizona for felony prosecutions of re-entering the country, with more than 4,800 felony convictions for the crime. Needless to say, the conclusion of these debates and subsequent policies will have a significant impact on the residents of Cuellar’s district, both documented and undocumented, and on the Congressman’s own reputation.
At first glance, Cuellar’s reputation appears to be a mixed bag. He voted against building a fence along the U.S./Mexico border, and he does not support the Minutemen Project, a volunteer-based movement of civilians taking on surveillance of the border region, claiming to do what they believe ought to be the duty of the Federal Government. He was also a champion of the aforementioned Operation Streamline, the 2005 policy that funnels immigrants into the federal criminal justice system to be prosecuted for entry or re-entry without authorization which will be expanded under the immigration bill currently in play. Grassroots Leadership has critiqued Operation Streamline heavily, in large part because when the number of prosecutions of these two crimes increases, such as they have in the Southern District, for-profit private prison companies benefit substantially.