Some of Trump’s Biggest Donors Are Profiting Big-Time on Immigration Detention Centers

The plan to lock-up asylum-seeking migrants may seem like it happened overnight, but it has been years in the making.

The giant retail stores being converted into detention centers and these large tent cities cropping up to house immigrants, where did they come from? As always, it is important to follow the money. This plan to lock-up asylum-seeking migrants may seem like it happened overnight, but it has been years in the making. Only weeks after Donald Trump put his filthy hand on Lincoln’s Bible and took the Oath of Office, this was the February 24, 2017, headline at CNN Money:

The actions Donald Trump, his sycophant Stephen Miller and Minister of White Supremacy Jeff Sessions are taking today are a huge payoff to the prison lobbyists and the border security industry that spent millions helping to get Donald Trump elected. Private for-profit prison executives were furious that President Obama decided to end the practice of using private prisons. They poured everything into Donald Trump and his campaign, maxing out $250,000 donations and even helping Trump raise $100 million in sketchy, secret money for his “inauguration committee.” And it paid off, as one of the first decisions from the Trump administration was to rescind Obama’s order to phase out private prisons.

  

They didn’t stop there. These groups have been spending lavishly at Trump’s private business as well. The Miami New Times noted the private prison company GEO Group was one of the newest big spenders at Trump’s Doral property in Florida.

 The GEO Group private-prison bash. Private-prison-company stock was cratering at the end of Barack Obama's time in office after his Department of Justice announced the federal government would no longer work with private, for-profit prison operators. But the Trump administration rapidly rolled those rules back after taking power. Then Boca Raton's GEO Group, the second-largest private-prison firm in America, moved its yearly company gathering to the Trump Doral.

At the core of it all, there are two factors that dovetail together when it comes to the immigrant detention centers: corruption and white supremacy. In fact, these are the core elements of the Trump administration overall. 

In March of 2017, then Homeland Security chief John Kelly told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that he was considering a plan to separate families and detain them.

"We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."

It didn’t take long for Kelly to publicly walk back that statement, denying he meant it would be a cruel, intentional warning or deterrent to others who might be thinking of seeking asylum in the U.S. But we can clearly see now, they’ve been plotting this for quite some time. The sadistic, racist voices appear to have won over Donald Trump as we can clearly see he approved this action in April 2018, when he sent his attorney general out with a public statement and then began snatching children from their parents at the border. 

Later in 2017, NPR highlighted the big money to be made from putting migrants and their children into detention centers. Money siphoned from our tax dollars to pay for their private profit cruelty.

The Trump administration wants to expand its network of immigrant jails. In recent months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called for five new detention facilities to be built and operated by private prison corporations across the country. Critics are alarmed at the rising fortunes of an industry that had fallen out of favor with the previous administration.

And those facilities weren’t going to fill themselves, now were they? A former detainee told NPR about his stay in one of these facilities:

Menjivar says he was raped by gang members in his cell, and when he reported it to the medical staff they mocked him. ICE found the rape allegation to be unsubstantiated. His lawyer has filed a federal civil rights complaint.

Menjivar also says he was forced to work for a dollar a day.

"Lots of things happened to me in Conroe," he says.

Anne Chandler is the executive director of the Houston-based nonprofit Tahirih JusticeCenter, which assists migrant women and children and she explained in Texas Monthlyhow these many of these asylum-seekers have tried to cross the border legally to apply for asylum, only to be turned away. The border patrol has closed the bridge used for legal entry. They are forcing illegal entry, funneling people to arrests. In that same interview, Chandler notes that many of these families actually seek out border patrol agents to turn themselves in because they want to start the process to apply for asylum. They don’t want to cross illegally, they had no other choice.

TM: Even if they crossed at a legal entry point?

AC: Very few people come to the bridge. The border patrol are saying the bridge is closed. When I was last out in McAllen, people were stacked on the bridge, sleeping there for three, four, ten nights. They’ve now cleared those individuals from sleeping on the bridge, but there are hundreds of accounts of asylum seekers, when they go to the bridge, who are told, “I’m sorry, we’re full today. We can’t process your case.” So the families go illegally on a raft—I don’t want to say illegally; they cross without a visa on a raft. Many of them then look for Border Patrol to turn themselves in, because they know they’re going to ask for asylum. And under this government theory—you know, in the past, we’ve had international treaties, right? Statutes which codified the right of asylum seekers to ask for asylum. Right? Article 31 of the Refugee Convention clearly says that it is improper for any state to use criminal laws that could deter asylum seekers as long as that asylum seeker is asking for asylum within a reasonable amount of time. But our administration is kind of ignoring this longstanding international and national jurisprudence of basic beliefs to make this distinction that, if you come to a bridge, we’re not going to prosecute you, but if you come over the river and then find immigration or are caught by immigration, we’re prosecuting you.

TM: So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.

AC: That’s right. I’ve talked to tons of people. There are organizations like Al Otro Lado that document border turn-backs. And there’s an effort to accompany asylum seekers so that Customs and Border Patrol can’t say, “We’re closed.” Everybody we’ve talked to who’s been prosecuted or separated has crossed the river without a visa.

It the end, this will not stop until we stand up and demand an end to this for-profit cruelty and beat back the white supremacists who are driving our immigration policies and enforcement. Let’s start by doing everything we can to reunite these families and then let’s carry our anger, our passion, our energy and our patriotism to the polls in November to change our Congress and take back this country.

[UDPATE] Bloomberg reports a Texas non-profit got a nearly $500 million contract to take care of the immigrant kids.

The Trump administration plans to pay a Texas nonprofit nearly half a billion dollars this year to care for immigrant children who were detained crossing the U.S. border illegally, according to government data.

 

The nonprofit, Southwest Key Programs Inc., is to be paid more than $458 million in fiscal 2018, according to the data -- the most among the organizations, government agencies and companies that run a detention and care system for immigrant children on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. Southwest Key has about a dozen facilities in Texas, including a site at a former WalMart Inc.store in Brownsville that has drawn attention from members of Congress and national news organizations.

 

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Jen Hayden is a writer for DailyKos.