The profitable business of immigration detention

This documentary by Al Jazeera English shows how the growing crackdown on unauthorized immigration generates profits for the growing U.S. private prison industry.   The state and federal prison population doubled in the past 20 years, but the number of prisoners in private prisons increased 17-fold.  Prison industry is a profitable business, and includes contracting for the U.S. military.

Immigration detention is a growing part of this.  The American Civil Liberties Union reported that, according to one report, nearly half of immigration detainees are held in private prisons,  versus 6 percent of state convicts and 16 percent of federal convicts.  The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest U.S. private prison corporation in the United States, helped the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) draft Arizona’s 2009 law allowing police to lock up anyone who is without documentation to show they are a citizen or a legal immigrant, and lobbied for it, along with other private prison corporations.

The documentary shows people being held in detention centers for up to a year without a hearing.  I guess the idea is that if they were given a prompt hearing and deported, there would be nothing to discourage them from trying again right away.

I admit I don’t have a good answer to the question of unauthorized immigration.   I think it is intolerable to have a underclass within U.S. borders who are outside the protection of U.S. law, who are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and government officials.  I don’t think it is feasible to hunt down and deport millions of unauthorized immigrants who are integrated into American society, even if the U.S. were turned into even more of a police state than it now is.   I doubt that the American economic and social structure could handle completely unrestricted immigration.  I don’t think repeated amnesties are the answer.

The implied answer of the champions of immigration rights quoted in the video is a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  I don’t think that is a good answer, but I don’t have a better one.   All I can say is that I think it is a bad idea to create a powerful vested economic interest whose profits are tied to maintaining the present bad situation.

Click on Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration for an executive summary of the ACLU report.

Click on Immigration is a moral issue and The least bad option on immigration for earlier posts of mine on the unauthorized immigration question.

Click on Profit-Driven Prison Industrial Complex: the Economics of Incarceration in the USA and Private Prisons Industry: Increasing Incarceration, Maximizing Profits and Corrupting Our Democracy for more on the for-profit prison industry.

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