Laughter's Medicine

Arizona’s Draconian Immigration Law Is Great … For Our Prison-Industrial Complex

from AlterNET

Editor’s note: This is satire.

All these liberals whining about “racial profiling” are missing the larger point. We’re in a recession here. Unemployment’s been hovering at ten percent. Perhaps the economy’s turned a corner, but the American labor market hasn’t.

Yet nobody’s really talking about how Arizona’s new immigration law is going to bring big business to the Copper State.

In 2006, when DHS only had 1.5 million people going through immigration proceedings, the Washington Post reported that ICE held “more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.”

Someone’s got to guard those detainees, clean those buses and fly those planes — we’re talking about American jobs!

In addition to its own detention facilities — they’re not called “jails” because many of those held are never charged with a crime — ICE leases thousands of beds in 312 county and city prisons.

And we’re not talking about just some European-style government-run prison scheme — these include dozens of private, for-profit facilities. The immigration detention system is crucially important for major companies like Halliburton, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. So we’re talking about private sector jobs. And they’re impossible to ship overseas!

“Housing federal detainees typically brings in more per ‘man-day,'” an industry term for what is earned per detainee, “than they can get from state prison systems,” wrote Leslie Berestein in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This is one of the last remaining growth industries, and all thanks to some heavy government intervention — stimulus of a different kind. Michele Deitch, an expert on prison privatization at the University of Texas in Austin, told the Union-Tribune that “the private prison industry was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, until the feds bailed them out with the immigration-detention contracts.”

CCA, one of the largest, has had a spectacular resurgence based in large part on changes in immigration policy. In a conference call with investors in 2008, John Ferguson, CEO of the firm, said he was optimistic that DHS’s detention network would continue to expand. “We see that the budget supports the detention population of 33,000 inmate detainee beds,” Ferguson said. “What I am most encouraged about is everything we are hearing says 33,000 is still not enough.”

According to “The Business of Detention,” by Stokely Baksh and Renee Feltz, five of CCA’s “lucrative contracts to detain immigrants have no end date. Several of its other contracts contain ‘take or pay’ clauses that guarantee a certain amount of revenue regardless of occupancy rates, as well as periodic rate increases. All of the contracts are renewed at a rate of almost 95 percent.”

The major players in the growing immigrant detention business are generous donors to the campaigns of immigration hardliners on Capitol Hill. They need to be: According to Detention Watch, releasing immigrants while their cases are pending costs as little as $12 dollars per day, and 93 percent of them show up for court. Each of the tens of thousands of detainees held in ICE’s nationwide prison network costs taxpayers an estimated $95 per day, or about eight times as much. Stimulating!

These private prison companies, which were languishing just a few years ago, are now poised to build on their recent success in Arizona, a sunny new immigration police state!

Now, perhaps you’ve spotted a flaw in this ‘Papers, Please’ Stimulus Plan: the new law all but guarantees that migrant communities will no longer cooperate with Arizona law enforcement agencies or report serious crimes when they occur. So maybe you’re wondering about all the criminals who won’t be caught because of the measure? Wouldn’t they have required housing, guards, transportation and the like if they’d been arrested?

Well, yes, but remember: there are far, far more people guilty of what were misdemeanor immigration offenses until last week than there are robbers, rapists and murderers!

Read the rest at this link.