These are dangerous times for undocumented immigrants. ICE has been super-charged by the Trump administration. And ICE’s empowerment has been lucrative for the companies that both cage and employ immigrants like Yesica.
A Daily Beast investigation found that in 2018 alone, for-profit immigration detention was a nearly $1 billion industry underwritten by taxpayers and beset by problems that include suicide, minimal oversight, and what immigration advocates say uncomfortably resembles slave labor.
Being in the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor offense, and immigration detention is technically a civil matter, not a criminal process. But the reality looks much different. The Daily Beast reported last month that as of Oct. 20, ICE was detaining an average of 44,631 people every day, an all-time high. Now ICE has told The Daily Beast that its latest detention numbers are even higher: 44,892 people as of Dec. 8. Its budget request for the current fiscal year anticipates detaining 52,000 people daily.
Expanding the number of immigrants rounded up into jails isn’t just policy; it’s big business. Yesica’s employer and jailer, the private prisons giant GEO Group, expects its earnings to grow to $2.3 billion this year. Like other private prison companies, it made large donations to President Trump’s campaign and inaugural.
Pinning down the size and scope of the immigration prison industry is obscured by government secrecy. But the Daily Beast combed through ICE budget submissions and other public records to compile as comprehensive a list as possible of what for-profit prisons charge taxpayers to lock up a growing population, and how many people those facilities detain on average. The result: For 19 privately owned or operated detention centers for which The Daily Beast could find recent pricing data, ICE paid an estimated $807 million in fiscal year 2018.
Read the whole thing. The entire system of prison labor is a moral monstrosity. When you add private prison contractors, ICE, and Trumpers to that mix, you have a toxicity at the very heart of the republic. But then finding ways for people of color to labor for free or nearly free for white people is in fact the founding ideology of this nation, all the fancy words of the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding.