Why the Immigration Debate Is Also a Debate About Privatization

As many as five million undocumented immigrants are waiting in limbo as the Supreme Court reviews challenges to President Obama’s 2014 executive actions, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). But there’s one group that’s more than happy with the status quo.

A new look under the hood of the nation’s immigration detention system reveals a staggering trend: immigrant detention has become increasingly reliant on facilities and services provided by private companies, which are driven by profit to keep or even expand existing services.

Companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — the nation’s two largest private prison companies — are benefiting from our bloated immigration detention system, which has grown by 75 percent over the last decade. Together, CCA and GEO Group operate eight of the ten largest detention centers.

This year, we’ll spend $2 billion on immigrant detention, much of it going to the growing private corrections industry. The industry’s growth has been fueled by guaranteed minimums (or “bed quotas”) mandating that a certain number of detention beds be available, or sometimes even filled, both nationally and within individual facility contracts. These quotas incentivize pulling more people into the system with an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement strategy. Currently, federal law mandates that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintain the capacity to detain at least 34,000 people at any time.

The Center for American Progress has revealed that, between 2004 and 2014, CCA and GEO Group spent millions of dollars on lobbying, which opened the door for these companies to influence legislation and contracts that include these quotas.

By Donald Cohen for Huffpost Politics
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