Right-Wing ALEC Retreats on Most Controversial Issues
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ALEC Role in Arizona's SB 1070 Anti-Immigrant Law
Another policy approved by the now-disbanded ALEC Task Force includes Arizona's controversial SB1070 immigration law, which is currently being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.
DBA Press / In These Times documented how Arizona Republican Rep. Russell Pearce collaborated with CCA and other members of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force in December 2009 to create the ALEC "model" immigration bill that became SB1070.
Before the ALEC meeting, for-profit prison operator CCA had identified immigrant detention as a profit center important for its future growth, stating it anticipated receiving "a significant portion of our revenues" from detaining immigrants. Even a hedge fund with a big stake in CCA was touting immigration detention as proof CCA would be profitable.
An immigrant contesting their deportation can wait up to a year for a hearing, even though many of those detained have not committed a crime and have no criminal record. Immigrant detention can cost taxpayers $122 a day. Because for-profit corporations operate about half of all immigrant detention facilities, these taxpayer dollars flow into the pockets of CCA and other for-profit prison providers.
The for-profit bail bond industry's trade association, the American Bail Coalition (ABC), is an ALEC member and was also on the Task Force that passed the ALEC anti-immigrant laws. An immigrant facing removal in some cases may be released on bond, and will often pay a commercial bail bondsman for their release. Immigration bonds are usually between $5,000 and $10,000, and can be much higher, so a for-profit bail bondsman who accepts 10 percent of that bail as a nonrefundable fee can rake in significant profits for doing very little.
At the time ALEC approved the "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act", the chairman of the ALEC corporate Private Enterprise Board was ABC general counsel Jerry Watson. Watson was very familiar with the profits that can be made by collecting bail bonds from detained immigrants. His law firm biography lists him as "specializing in the field of ... immigration bonding."
ABC has called ALEC the industry's "life preserver". ABC pays for ALEC membership, and a representative sits on the ALEC "Private Enterprise Board" as well as ALEC's Executive Committee. The trade group boasts that "during its two decade involvement with ALEC, ABC has written 12 model bills fortifying the commercial bail industry" that were passed by the Criminal Justice / Public Safety & Elections Task Force.
While the Criminal Justice / Public Safety & Elections Task Force is now dissolved, ABC will continue to work with the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. The NRA's future relationship with ALEC is not known. It is also not known whether ALEC will disavow or repeal the bills approved by the Criminal Justice / Public Safety & Elections Task Force over the past three decades.
ALEC Scrambling for Support
ALEC has come under increased scrutiny over the past year after the Center for Media and Democracy released its ALEC Exposed Project, which revealed and analyzed more than 800 previously-secret "model" bills voted on by corporate or special interest lobbyists and politicians.
In response to the growing scrutiny in recent weeks, ALEC also claimed that "America needs organizations like ALEC to foster the discussion and debate of policy differences in an open, transparent way." But as CMD and others have documented, ALEC Task Force meetings are closed to the press and public and take place behind closed doors.
As more and more light is shining on the shadowy organization, ALEC is also recruiting allies like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to come to its defense. And as more and more corporate members announce they will stop funding the organization, ALEC is also begging for money.