The big business of immigration detention centers
October 15, 2015
With 62 percent of detention beds privately run, are detainees in US facilities receiving proper treatment?
President Obama has called himself the "champion in chief" of immigration law reform, but there have been more deportations during his terms than any preceding president. 2.4 million at last count. And there's been an expansion of the entire detention system by nearly 47 percent in the last decade. Every year more than 400,000 men, women, and children are being held in federal detention facilities across the country while awaiting immigration proceedings.
These 250 detention centers are under the authority of ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But nine out of the ten largest are run by for-profit prison companies. In all, 62% of all detention beds are contracted out to the private sector, up from 49 percent in 2009. And that's meant the two largest prison corporations, CCA and The GEO Group, have seen their fortunes grow. Their revenues together are now $3.3 billion, about a third of that from immigration detention.
That's good news for shareholders of the two companies. But what does a push to maximize profits mean for detainees in these privately run centers? Reporter Ines Ferre went to Arizona to find out.
Head about an hour south of Phoenix into the heart of the Arizona desert, and just off a deserted highway you'll find the Eloy Detention Center.
It's a federal facility under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. But day to day operations at Eloy are run by a private company called CCA. It's part of what activist Carlos Garcia says is a troubling trend toward privatization in immigration detention - where prisoners and profits collide.