An "In These Times" report by an independent journalist turns up some interesting connections between the Arizona legislators who introduced an anti-immigrant law and corporate profiteers.
State Senator Russell Pierce is the perp, immigrants are his victims, and driving the getaway car are "private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, which stand to reap substantial profits as more undocumented residents end up in jail."
Other perps include the "non-profit" American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with corporate connections that run all the way down the highway to your favorite strip mall. ALEC is operating illegally, but what the hell, they're making big bucks for their sponsors.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALEC bills itself as “the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators” and as a public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC claims as members more than 2,000 state lawmakers (one-third of the nation’s total legislators) and more than 200 corporations and special-interest groups.
The organization’s current corporate roster includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation’s largest private jailer), the Geo Group (the nation’s second largest private jailer), Sodexho Marriott (the nation’s leading food services provider to private correctional institutions), the Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to name just a few.
ALEC is comprised of 10 task forces, each responsible for developing “model legislation,” which ALEC member lawmakers then sponsor and introduce in their home states. This occurs despite the fact that federal tax law explicitly forbids 501(c)(3) organizations such as ALEC from taking part in the formation of legislation.
This coordinator of profitable new laws passed by state legislators has helped focus more attention on immigrants, a great new source of profit.
Over the past decade, the private-prison industry has increasingly shifted its attention to the burgeoning fields of undocumented and criminal alien detention. From January 2008 to April 2010, CCA spent $4.4 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Office of Budget Management, the Bureau of Prisons, and both houses of Congress. Of the 43 lobbying disclosure reports CCA filed during this period, only five do not expressly state intent to monitor or influence immigration reform policy or gain Homeland Security or ICE appropriations.
Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why the private-prison industry is eager to expand into immigrant detentions. According to ICE Public Affairs Officer Gillian Brigham, in fiscal year 2009, ICE detained 383,524 individuals, with an average daily prisoner population of 32,098 spread across the nation’s 270 immigrant detention centers.
Due to the rising numbers of immigrant detentions in recent years, coupled with the rising tide of economic shortfalls at both the state and federal level (ICE reported a $140 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2010), ICE has farmed out the operations of many of these facilities to either county operators under inter-government service agreements (IGSAs) or to private-prison contractors who operate the facilities on a per diem, per inmate basis.