Since 2009, Congress has instructed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain 34,000 beds in immigrant detention facilities across the country, a policy known as “the bed mandate.” This mandate costs the American taxpayer $5.05 million per day–or $159 a day per immigrant detainee.
A new report released this week by Grassroots Leadership found that the private prison industry contributed significant sums towards lobbying Congress for increasingly aggressive immigration detention policies.
The report also found that 67 percent of all ICE immigration detention beds are operated by for-profit prison corporations and nine out of the ten largest ICE detention centers are private. This is particularly significant in light of an expansion of the entire immigration detention system, which has increased by nearly 47 percent in the past decade according to this report. Previous research found that the acceleration of the criminalization of immigration – of which the bed mandate is a part of – has occurred in line with a downsizing of state prison populations, which represents the number one revenue source for private prison companies.
The two major players that have benefited the most from the criminalization of immigration are the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. Together, they operate 72 percent of privately contracted ICE detention beds. The report found that after the implementation of the bed mandate in 2009, their profits also increased. CCA saw an increase from over $133.3 million in 2007 to over $195 million in 2014. GEO Group saw an increase of over $41.8 million in 2007 to over $143.8 million in 2014.
The report also shows that between 2008 and 2014, CCA spent $9.76 million dollars in quarters that directly lobbied the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Subcommittee. This subcommittee is responsible for the bed mandate language and its interpretation. While the GEO Group did not directly lobby this subcommittee, it spent $460,000 between 2011 and 2014 lobbying on immigration and immigrant detention issues. The National Immigration Forum has previously argued that private prison corporations have “exerted their influence on legislators by lobbying for laws that detain immigrants more frequently and for longer periods of time.”
This new report adds to the evidence that the private prison industry has a significant stake in expanding immigrant detention, and will spend millions to ensure that it continues to do so.
Photo Courtesy of Seattle Globalist.