Who Profits from Migrant Detention? Follow the Money.

Who Profits from Migrant Detention? Follow the Money.

By Maryann Vazquez

When it was announced that the Trump administration was detaining more migrants and separating children at an increasingly rapid rate, initially I thought he was just pandering to a racist base. However, I now believe it to be a case of corporate greed or perhaps something far more nefarious.

As news outlets often do, they give the human costs of holding detainees, heart-tugging stories of families torn apart; details of human rights violations, and inhumane living conditions; children kept in cages alone, without parents and even without any comfort from an adult. It was all very disturbing and upsetting. News sources then began breaking down the financial costs in addition to the emotional costs. The costs of detainment under the “no tolerance policy” were compared to the Obama Administration policy of keeping families together.

The gap between the two is startlingly huge.  The Family Case Management Program used during Obama’s term – a program that delivered a 99% effectiveness rate in managing immigrants with ankle monitors, while they were awaiting court hearings and check-ins with immigration authorities – cost $36 dollars a day!  But instead of continuing this successful and inexpensive program, the Trump administration ended it in June 2017 and decided on a more expensive option. Detention center costs can be between $140-$200 a night per person, or families can be kept together with a price tag of $300-$375 per night. Further, the rate of immigrant detention is accelerating to the point it has become necessary to set up tent cities near the border for about $700 to $800 a night.

Who would have known that providing shelter to migrant children as well as migrant adults could be so (expletive) lucrative? Well, it turns out that locking up children is big business, meaning big contracts for big donors! Let’s see who benefits most.

According to Open Secrets and several other sources, some of the biggest beneficiaries are GEO Group, headquartered in Boca Raton Florida; Core Civic of America, Nashville; and Southwest Key Programs, an Austin based non-profit that has received close to $600 million dollars in the past two years. What is probably more disturbing than the contracts these organizations have been awarded is what some of them have donated, and to whom.  A subsidiary of Core Civic donated $250,00 toward the Trump inaugural festivities, GEO Group donated $250,00 to the Trump inaugural committees, and one of its subsidiaries gave $225,00 to a pro-Trump super PAC. 

Have I gotten your interest yet?  Watch this space next month!