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Private detention industry booms with high cost for immigrant community

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Following an increase in immigration enforcement across the country, NPR reported the resulting boon for the detention industry. The article named detention centers as “private immigrant jails” operated by private corporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic. NPR also reported that GEO Group is facing two class-action lawsuits for forced labor within detention, among a number of issues raised by immigrant rights advocacy groups.

The article interviewed Douglas Menjivar on his experience while detained at Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas operated by GEO Group:

“Menjivar says he was raped by gang members in his cell, and when he reported it to the medical staff they mocked him. ICE found the rape allegation to be unsubstantiated. His lawyer has filed a federal civil rights complaint.

Menjivar also says he was forced to work for a dollar a day.

‘Lots of things happened to me in Conroe,’ he says.”

The Trump administration reversed the Bureau of Prisons’ previous decision to end federal contracts with private companies to detain immigrants who had been convicted of crimes, leading to more revenue for GEO Group and CoreCivic and a bump in the companies’ stock prices. Advocates and human rights organizations have shown detention to be costly and ineffective. Further, according to NPR, “The Justice Department found these prisons fall short on safety and security, and are no cheaper than those run by the federal government.”

NPR reported that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested a 25% budget increase for detention to raise the total number of beds to 51,000, far exceeding the Congressionally mandated 34,000 immigrant detention bed quota. The request for increased detention capacity facilitates ICE’s plan to conduct widespread raids and arrests as "immigration agents under Trump have been much more aggressive” across the country.

Menjivar commented on the plan to build a second detention center in Conroe, Texas with 1,000 beds, costing $44 million per year to detain immigrants: "For me it's a bad idea. They're psychologically mistreating immigrants."

 

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