Immigration detention center quotas need revision

June 20, 2015
Austin American-Statesman

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.

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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.