Most Mexicans and Central Americans who clandestinely cross the southern U.S. border are fleeing violent drug cartels and militias, or crushing poverty in their home countries. Legislators and congressional representatives in border states such as mine are fond of spouting tough-sounding rhetoric aimed at demonizing these immigrants. In an investigative piece, The Guardian learned that anti-immigrant propaganda turns out to be quite profitable:
Last year, 97,384 people were prosecuted for immigration crimes in the US, a 367% increase from 2003, according to Syracuse University’s Trac Immigration project. Nationwide, more than half of all federal criminal prosecutions last year were for illegal entry or reentry into the United States. More people are sent to federal prison for immigration offenses than for violent crime, weapons, and property offenses combined.
This criminalization of immigration has set off a lucrative boom in private prisons.
Private prison companies insist they do not try to influence immigration law and enforcement, but in 2012 an Associated Press analysis found that the three biggest private prison companies – Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Management & Training Corp – had spent $45 million to lobby state and federal governments over the past decade. The three companies brought in almost $4 billion in revenue in 2012 alone…
If you can stomach it, details of how these private companies run five immigrant prisons in Texas can be found here.