For-Profit Prison System Preying on Immigrants: Report

by Common Dreams

Lobbyists for private prisons push anti-immigrant legislation, creating ever-more demand for their for-profit detention centers

American prison companies have detained unprecedented amounts of undocumented immigrants in exchange for massive profits, following a decade long lobbying effort which has influenced immigration policies at federal and state levels, according to a new report by theAssociated Press.

The top three detention industry giants— Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. — have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level.

The federal government now has plans that include new facilities ready to house up to 400,000 immigrants detained annually, according to the Associated Press report. In return private companies earn billions of dollars to facilitate the detentions.

The cost to American taxpayers has reached up to $2 billion for this year; however, the companies are expecting even larger chunks of state and federal budgets in the next few years.

“It’s a millionaire’s business, and they are living off profits from each one of the people who go through there every single night,” Pedro Guzman told the Associated Press, who experienced private detention centers first hand after being detained in 2009 after missing an appearance for an asylum application.

In 2005 alone the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget jumped from $3.5 billion to $4.7 billion — coinciding with an unprecedented peak in corrections companies’ lobbying efforts.

Associated Press found that within the last ten years, prison companies and their employees specifically gave to key congressional leaders who control how much money is allotted to private detention centers.

According to the Associated Press review, the top beneficiaries of prison company campaign contributions include:

  • The Republican Party’s national and congressional committees: received around $450,000
  • Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain: received $71,000, during his presidential bid, only after denouncing a bill that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship
  • House Speaker John Boehner: received $63,000
  • Kentucky U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers who chaired the first subcommittee on Homeland Security, heads the House Appropriations Committee, and criticizes ICE for not filling enough detention beds: received $59,000
  • Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who led the Senate during the peak of the nation’s immigrant detention build up from 2003 to 2007: received $58,500

The private prison companies, however have spent even more money on lobbying in Washington. Such lobbying efforts reached $5 million per year.

Likewise, Huffington Post investigation recently exhibited the correlation between a growing numbers of federal inmates in private facilities, an increase in funding for detention bedspace, and prison industry payouts in Washington:

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