Since 2009, appropriations bills passed by the U.S. Congress have required the funding of 34,000 immigration detention beds per day. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have interpreted this funding provision as a requirement that those beds be filled at all times. Some of the people detained based on this detention bed quota are in local jails and correctional facilities, but many are in private, for-profit correctional facilities run by corporations with enormous lobbying power. The increasing rates of detention and deportation in the Obama years have coincided with the growth of private prison contractors, who now control 62% of immigration detention beds.
In 2013, CCR and our client and partner Detention Watch Network filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DHS and ICE about the detention bed quota. They failed to release any of the requested information, so we filed a lawsuit to compel them to comply with the law. As a result, a court ordered both agencies to begin releasing documents on a monthly basis.
The public has a right to understand the workings of a policy that devastates families and immigrant communities while serving corporate bottom lines. In fact, our review of government productions has helped us target the most pernicious aspect of this policy: local lockup quotas, in which private prison contractors receive funds for a “guaranteed minimum” number of detained immigrants. Local lockup quotas give government officials incentives to funnel immigrants into facilities with private contracts to save money, even as community outrage over the abuses of the private prison industry grows. CCR’s and DWN’s ongoing analysis is contributing to both national and local campaigns to challenge those abuses; our report on local lockup quotas moved Congressional representatives in Florida, Illinois and Washington to introduce legislation to end guaranteed minimums in private prison contracts.
For more information on the troubling immigration detention conditions and how private prison corporations are influencing immigration policy, see these two reports: